After seeing the amazing Japanese silent film A Page of Madness, I have a new appreciation for prolific Japanese director, the late Teinosuke Kinugasa. As part of the Revelation: Perth International Film Festival, A Page of Madness was presented in combination with a live score by the British duo In the Nursery, whose mix of electronica and orchestral was a great compliment to the film's haunting tone. Kinugasa's film, which was made in Japan in 1926, is so ahead of it's time that it should be seen alongside Battleship Potemkin as one of the two great 1920s hallmarks of future cinema. Kinugasa manages to evoke the living and embodied experiences of "madness" through the use montage, visual distortions and other stylised elements. These tools were only just emerging from the Russian montage school of cinema, and it seems apparent that Kinugasa must have been aware of international developments in cinmatic techique (he did, apparently, meet Eisenstein, but not until after A Page of Madness was completed).
In terms of plot, A Page of Madness is set inside a Japanese insane asylum in 1926, where a retired sailor takes a job as a janitor in order to rescue his wife, who is being held there after attempting to drown their daughter. The evocation of insanity as a fantastical, dream-like and embodied state is amazing: dance, dream-sequences and deliberately ambiguous settings create an amazing feel for the internal mental worlds at work in the asylum. Indeed, the plight of the sailor and his children in trying to deal with their mother's experience is equally enthralling. However, this is a film about visuals, not about plot. The only word I have to describe the visual elements at work is visionary. A Page of Madess is an exceptional film and should be seen be anyone interested in early cinema, or the visual representation of mental worlds and illness. Although it has no more scheduled Perth dates, those of you in Melbourne should definitely make your way to the two screenings as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
For those who are interested in learning more about the director and the film, visit a wonderful Midnight Eye feature on A Page of Madness.