A PAGE OF MADNESS is a silent film by director Teinosuke Kinugasa. It was lost for fifty years until he found a print in his storehouse. Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1968 Yasunari Kawabata is credited with the screenplay on the film, though now it’s believed to be a collaboration between the director and he, as well as a couple of others. The actors involved were a group of avant garde artists who didn’t want naturalisitic impressions.
They got that.
I watched this film without doing any sort of research beforehand. I wanted to see what sort of impressions I came away with. I noticed immediately there were no intertitles. It was hard to follow. There has been a music sound track added to the prints today(according to what I found, about a third of the film as originally shown IS gone). All credits at the beginning are in Japanese. The budget was so short that most of the actors, big names in their time, contributed to painting set pieces, setting up shots, sleeping on set. The filming took about a month.
An old man(Masuo Inoue) wanders the halls of a mental asylum. Obviously some sort of handyman, he’s seen cleaning windows, mopping, working in the garden, gathering the patients’ food bowls and mugs. A flashback shows him in some sort of uniform, military. He’s also obviously looking for someone. His furtive manner, looking over his shoulder constantly, the subservient manner in the presence of the doctors and nurses told me that.
Most of the patients are made up to look slovenly, filthy robes, no make-up, hair all over the place. Except for one. An attractive young woman(Eiko Minami), in black, with perfect hair, dances constantly, drawing a lot of attention. One riot breaks out outside her cell(that’s what it have to be called, a door of thick bars), patients coming from everywhere and the staff seeming to have no control over them. Probably not a representation of hospitals of the time.
The old man is trying to find his wife(Yoshie Nakagawa) and get her out. When he finds her cell, steals a key, and spirits her toward the door, she balks and refuses to leave, fighting him at every step, finally collapsing. He goes off to get her a glass of water and she gets up, wandering off. He starts looking for her again, only to get into a fight with a doctor, beating him with a mop, finding the wife, beating off a mob of patients with the mop.
All during the film, we see him away from the hospital, a much happier man, interacting with a young woman, his daughter(Ayako Iijima), and her intended(Hiroshi Nemoto), they unaware that he’d taken a job at the hospital. The film ends when the pair show up at the hospital to tell mother of their impending wedding. The last scene we see is the old man mopping a floor, sad expression on his face.
All in all, I’m glad I watched this film. Hard to follow, I was still there. The soundtrack added to the film helped, a lot of wind instruments and percussion. It lent a start tone to what was happening onscreen.
For more overlooked movies, as always, hit the link and check out Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.