Girl's World connecting women---A film by the women for the women

Maiden in Uniform 

Girl's World connecting women---A film by the women for the women

(DVD/ 87 minutes/ Publisher IVC)


On February 1, 1933 the German film, Madchen in Uniform (1931) (Mädchen in Uniform) was released in Japan. It is a well-known episode that Kashiko Kawakita, wife of the president of Towa Shoji Goshi Co. Ltd. at the time (later Toho Towa Company, Ltd.) took fancy to the film during her honeymoon trip to Europe and bought out its distribution right. The film, made entirely by female director, scriptwriter as well as unknown casts, won the Best Foreign Film Award at the annual Kinema Junpo (a Japanese film magazine which began publication in 1919) that year.

The scene of the film takes place in an all-girl boarding school for daughters from poor soldier families, strictly administered by ridged rules of the Prussian principal. The film opens with a cut of girls in broad-striped dress and black cap walking in a line in silence lead by one of their teachers. Girls are not allowed to chat while walking. Manuela, whose mother just died, is brought into the scene. Under the reign of the principal forcing severe rules and orders, not only the students are deprived of freedom, but also the teachers are so harshly oppressed that they cannot stand against the principal with an iron hand.

Like the rest of the girls, Manuela develops a crush on Ms. Bernburg, a warm-hearted beautiful female teacher.  On the occasion of the principal’s birthday, Manuela plays the main character of Schiller’s Don Carlos in the school play. At the student-only party after the play, Manuela gets drunk drinking a little too much of alcoholic punch and announces her passionate love for Ms. Bernburg in front of all the students gathered in the dining hall. Upon hearing about this scandalous incident, the principal imposes strict punishment on Manuela, banning her from seeing other students and Ms. Bernburg. Having severed contact with Ms. Bernburg, deeply distressed Manuela attempts suicide, but was discovered and saved by some students in the nick of time. Finally, the girls in the boarding school decide to stand against the tyrannical principal.

Listening to such scenario, readers may get an impression of the story as a revolt of oppressed girls against the authoritarian adults. But the film critics of that time highly evaluated the film for doing a good job of portraying delicate sensitivity of young girls in their puberty. However, I believe the real charm of this film is in its descriptive power which displays girl’s world in general. I prefer the scenes of girls having fun to serious ones. For example, I like the scene where Manuela’s room-mate, Iruze takes Manuela to show a photo of her favorite movie star secretly posted on the inside door of her locker as a gesture of welcoming the newcomer to the boarding school. I also like scenes such as girls in underwear making a racket in the washroom, or the scene after the school play where girls are having fun dancing to pop songs in the dining hall. The atmosphere created by these scenes is still so vivid and alive even eighty years after the first release of the film. These scenes displayed the girls living and enjoying their lives to the fullest extent despite having limits and oppressions placed upon them. (continue…)  

Original Article on the WAN Website. Written by Lita on Sep. 2, 2012
Translated  by Yoko Hayami

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