Kinugasa Teinosuke's A Page of Madness (1926) is now known as the first avant-garde silent film made in Japan. Besides its unique cinematographic style (no intertitles) and strange story (about a family at a lunatic asylum), it involves various intellectuals in its production including the novelist Kawabata Yasunari in the context of a new literary movement emerging at the time. Above all, the film had been missing for almost half a century. It was found and released to the public again in 1971 though in an incomplete form, which makes the film more difficult to comprehend and appreciate. In this paper, a sequence of the film is to be examined to see how far the narrative of the film can convey the story to the spectators without any sound and intertitles and only with the graphic images by comparing the sequence with the script and other secondary sources.
Mariann Lewinsky, this edition is 500 meters shorter by reel than the original one released in 1926) (Sharp). In order to get a clue for the interpretation of a sequence, I will often refer to the script that Kawabata wrote. Regarding this script, after the first draft was written by him, it had been changed throughout the shooting according to what was actually shot at the studio. After the shooting was done, a few reconstructed the script and Kawabata rewrote it. It was finally published under Kawabata's name with a small note saying that the story was made with the help of three people including the director Kinugasa (Kinugasa 71-72). I'd also like to refer to a secondary source such as Kinugasa's autobiography. I use these materials not as a support to reinforce my interpretation as the director's intention, but as a reference and guide to a possible interpretation that can be drawn out from the present film.
|The Last Laugh|
We have a hard time telling which scenes are fantasy and which are real. Because from the beginning to the end, A Page of Madness is full of memories, flashbacks, imagination, daydreams of the characters using superimposition, cross-cutting, distorted images, and rapid montages. Even the reality is often shown as distorted images seen through the insane patients' eyes. We are often fooled by the montages and may come to wonder about what the 'reality' is in the film. In other words, not using intertitles is a way to push the spectators to the position where even a neutral text by the narrator cannot be found and to leave them in the situation that they have to find the sane reality in the film through careful reading of the montages by themselves.