A Page of Madness (狂った一頁, Kurutta Ippēji or Kurutta Ichipeiji) is a 1926 Japanese silent film directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa (Gate of Hell).
The setting is a mental hospital. A custodian at the mental hospital is eventually revealed to be both a former naval officer and husband to one of the inmates. Flashbacks and montages indicate that the custodian's wife is in the asylum because she either attempted to drown their baby in a lake or actually did drown their baby in a lake. The custodian seems to have taken a job at the mental hospital in order to be closer to his wife, who spends most of her time locked in a padded cell. Two younger visitors to the asylum appear to be their grown daughter and teenaged son; the daughter is engaged to be married, and the boy may or may not be the child that the mother attempted to drown. Other patients at the asylum include a bearded man who tries to assault the daughter during her visit, and a woman who seems to have been a dancer, and continues to dance non-stop in her cell, even when her feet are bleeding.
A Page of Madness is a very rare example of a surviving Japanese silent film. Various factors, including the fires from a 1923 earthquake, the fires from American bombs, and the lack of foreign distribution of Japanese silent films, combined to result in the loss of nearly all of Japan's early cinema history. A Page of Madness was thought to be lost for many years, until director Kinugasa found a complete negative stored in a rice barrel at his house in 1971.
- Bedlam House: Sort of. It's hard to tell, but the doctors and nurses seem to making every effort to treat the patients as well as they can. Of course, due to the primitive nature of psychiatry in The Twenties any mental asylum was probably going to be a Bedlam House, and this pretty much is one, with raving lunatic patients locked away in their cells, occasionally rioting, sometimes attacking visitors.
- Bilingual Bonus: Annoyingly, not only are there no title cards, there are no subtitles on the rare occasions when printed writing is seen onscreen. In one shot some Japanese characters pop up on the screen in very large type several times. Turns out they say "big lottery"—and in the scene that follows the custodian daydreams of winning a big prize to give to his daughter.
- Chiaroscuro: Many moodily lit black-and-white shots of the halls of the asylum.
- Domestic Abuse: One very brief superimposition, seen when the custodian is trying to drag his wife out of the asylum and she is resisting, implies that he used to beat her.
- Dutch Angle: Used many times throughout, especially of shots of the inmates through the bars of their cells, as well as shots of the inmates in the common room.
- Empathic Environment: A deluge of a rainstorm is passing over the asylum in the opening scene, as the dancer dances in her cell and other inmates rave in theirs.
- Hallucinations: The dancer is having auditory and/or visual hallucinations of an entire band, while believing herself to be a dancer in a show. Other scenes may or may not be hallucinations, in keeping with the general Mind Screw vibe.
- Kubrick Stare: The wife does this from time to time, like when she's lying on the floor of her cell and looking up at the custodian, or when she's been let out to walk in the asylum's yard and sees her son and daughter.
- Laughing Mad: Inmates are occasionally seen laughing hysterically.
- Mind Screw:
- The film is shot and edited very elliptically, with a deliberately obscure Mind Screw style that bears an obvious debt to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It doesn't help that there is not a single title card in the film. This is because in the silent era in Japan films were accompanied by a benshi, a sort of narrator who would provide live description and commentary of the film as it played.
- The custodian appears to beat the head doctor to death during an attempt to break his wife out of the asylum. Later the doctor is shown to be alive and well, and the custodian is still working at the asylum.
- Some shots, like the early scene where the wife sees a specter of her husband or later shots in which the custodian is seen transparent against the background, even seem to suggest that the custodian might be a ghost.
- Towards the end of the film there's a scene in which the wife, who has been broken out of the asylum by the custodian, is attacking her daughter, who is cowering in the back seat of a car. It just sort of happens. Hard to tell how they got to that point.
- Nameless Narrative: Pretty much an Enforced Trope in a silent film without title cards.
- P.O.V. Cam: Seen from the POV of the dancer, as the camera spins while she dances her dance of mania.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Most of the film is seen from the perspective of the custodian, but some scenes are seen from the shot of the dancer (she apparently thinks she's dancing in a show, complete with a live band as accompaniment), and some are seen from the perspective of the wife, who hallucinates the spirit of her husband at one point. Additionally, the custodian himself seems to be progressively losing his grip throughout the movie, and there are scenes suggesting that what we see from him isn't reliable. There's the resurrected doctor (see Mind Screw above), as well as a scene where the daughter leaves the custodian's room, only for him to look out after her and see an empty hallway. The scene where the custodian distributes Noh masks to all the inmates, and then puts one on himself, also suggests that the custodian is going as mad as the inmates and might even be an inmate himself.
- Whip Pan: Used in one scene to rapidly pan around to various insane inmates. The speed of the cutting increases until the camera is left simply spinning for a little bit.
- White Mask of Doom: In the most unsettling and creepy scene in this unsettling and creepy movie, the custodian gets ahold of a bunch of Noh masks and distributes them to the frenzied, maniacal inmates, all of whom immediately calm down and seem to take on the placid attitudes of their masks. The man gives a mask to his wife and then dons one himself, and they all seem to nod at the camera.
- Would Hurt a Child: It seems more or less certain that the wife flung her baby into a lake, and that the daughter at least tried to save the baby. Whether or not that baby became the young son, or actually drowned in the lake, is less clear.