2018 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Three – A PAGE OF MADNESS
Day three of the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival was a chilly, blustery day. There were snow flakes in the air even. The Avalon Theater suffered a blackout. It was fitting on an odd day for the film festival to present their annual silent film, A PAGE OF MADNESS. A PAGE OF MADNESS is certainly one of the more unique films that has been presented and with its eerie visuals, it makes a fine accompaniment for the Halloween season.
It may come as a surprise to some that the annual silent film screening is a hot ticket, but there’s something about the film festival setting that leaves people open to the notion of seeing something different. And A PAGE OF MADNESS qualifies on the something different scale with a 10. A PAGE OF MADNESS was produced by an avant garde art collective and then lost for over 40 years. Upon being rediscovered, the film quickly gained a reputation as a lost classic reclaimed.
Presented without intertitles, A PAGE OF MADNESS is a film where the narrative details are a bit hard to follow. What’s clear is that the janitor at an insane asylum has had his wife committed there. He’s protective and fantasizes about freeing her, getting into fights and fantasizing about escaping with her. And the fantasies are very elaborate and disturbing. There are fine points that were lost on me, but the main gist of the story is clear enough. Especially if you bother to read the cast description.
But, you’re not coming for the narrative, you’re coming for a phantasmagoria of fantastic imagery. You can struggle with the narrative, while still being impressed with the audacity of imagery. A PAGE OF MADNESS lives up to its avant garde origins and features a slew of eerie images and sequences. It’s heavily stylized, but it’s not a style that shares more than a surface similarity to German Expressionism which makes it a rather unique horror film from the period. How much you’re willing to go with style over substance is likely going to determine your ultimate enjoyment of the film, but it is a memorable visual experience.
Assisting the visual presentation was a live accompaniment by the always great ALLOY ORCHESTRA. Nobody accompanies silent films better and they composed an atmospheric and mostly restrained score for A PAGE OF MADNESS. Even when the narrative falters, the score is always worth listening to. They received a well earned standing ovation at the conclusion of the screening.
A PAGE OF MADNESS played only once at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival. But, there are still hundreds of interesting, unique screenings yet to play. The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 18, 2018 to November 1, 2018. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website mkefilm.org.