Thursday, January 9, 2014

Madness in the Grey

Now Playing: Beyond Two Souls OST - Main Theme and The Infraworld

So strangely enough, both my German and Japanese cinema class have started the same way. A super old silent film with added music the professor disproves of and that deals with psychological horror and the nature of madness.

Well sort of. You don't really know that about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari till the end, but that's what Page of Madness is practically about. Uhm. Sort of. I'm going with what I understood.

Because silent films in Japan had live narrators called benshi and Page of Madness was lost for like 50 years, the copy that remains is just an hour of silence as the footage plays. My professor had a copy of the movie that did have music, but she cut the audio because she said it had obviously been added after the fact and wasn't authentic. As soon as it started playing I was dying to reach for my phone, slip my earphones in, and watch the movie with music. It was terribly difficult to pay attention because of the silence, but if I closed my eyes and pretended to watch it in spinets, it was strangely beautiful.

That said, it was interesting to compare it to Caligari. That film is just beautiful and capturing, and even though it's obviously incredibly old, it has a sense of timelessness to it. It might have to do a lot with the way its stylized and how the narrative unfolds.

I think that was probably the most interesting thing to happen in German cinema. I remember when we got to propaganda movies, instead of watching  something like Triumph of the Will, my professor forced us to watch one called Hitler Youth Quex. Good god that was terrible.

I sat there in disbelief for the good hour and a half, wondering how the hell Fritz Lang's M had come out just two years earlier, and yet was infinitely more timeless. (And I don't mean in terms of content--though the story is timeless too--I mean in its execution).

It sometimes feels like visual mediums have a harder time adapting to a rapidly changing culture, but I feel like the value remains no matter how "outdated" something becomes. We find meaning in art that's fifty, hundred, a thousand years old, even if the languages change or the styles turn ancient and difficult to comprehend.

I'm not a very good student of history. Facts and cause and effects throw me off and I find it difficult to pay attention. But the actual nature of timekeeping and documenting is fascinating. It makes me feel like nothing from the past will ever be incomprehensible, and even if certain things are lost through history, some sort of invisible legacy remains.

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