Page of Madness & Anticipation of the Night
Page of Madness
was an independent production by Teinosuke Kinugasa, who achieved international recognition twenty-seven years later with The Gate of Hell (1953), a film instrumental in bringing Japanese cinema to Western eyes. At that time the existence of his early silent Page of Madness was unknown; it was believed lost until 1971 when Kinugasa found a copy in his garden shed! A hallucinatory and disturbing tale of the pathetic attempts of a janitor (formerly a seaman) in an insane asylum trying to release his wife, incarcerated after her suicide attempt which also drowned their baby, Page of Madness uses superimpositions, associative editing, extreme camera angles, close-ups, concealing shadows and unearthly luminescence (the set was painted silver to increase the available light while darkness strategically hid the minuteness of the set on this very low-budget production) - in other words, the techniques of German Expressionist Cinema and Soviet Montage, but Kinugasa's film was made before these foreign films reached Japan. The innovativeness of Page of Madness is striking in the context of what we know of early Japanese cinema (much of which is lost to us), but when it was originally released in Tokyo, it had limited critical and financial success in a theater specializing in foreign films (a situation comparable to the post-war “art house” films in this country). Page of Madness relied totally on its visuals to tell its story, abandoning intertitles; the present musical score was added later, though approved and synchronized by Kinugasa. To audiences in the twenties accustomed to traditional and popular narrative film construction, Page of Madness must have appeared as disorienting and demanding as any film of the New American Cinema to contemporary audiences. In the seventies, Page of Madness tardily takes its place among the classics - it is to be hoped that it will not take forty years for the innovations of the New American Cinema to become as accessible.