This film is part of Free

Japanese Dancers and Japanese Stave Duel

The performance of a masked dancer is followed by a scene from a kendo match, contrasting grace and ferocity.

Documentary 1905 4 mins


This film consists of two seemingly unrelated scenes. In the first half, a male dancer wears a series of masks as he dances on stage. The editing elides the change of masks and costumes, so that the dancer looks as if he is naturally transformed, first from a demon into a young woman, and then into an animal. The film then cuts to a radically different scene, in which two men in protective armour fight with bamboo swords, surrounded by men in modern military uniform.

This film exemplifies two contrasting models of traditional masculinity in Japan. The graceful dance embodies the effeminate beauty of youths, while the fierce match of kendo (literally ‘the way of the sword’) harks back to the swordsmanship of samurai in the feudal period. The masks of noh, classical dance-drama, and the protective helmet of kendo opponents both serve to hide the practitioners’ identity and emotion, demonstrating the Japanese virtue of self-restraint. (Kosuke Fujiki). BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon adds: These two films survive as part of a compilation of films called Événements Russo-Japonais (Russo-Japanese War Programme), issued by Pathe in 1904.