Archive for September 30th, 2013

The Adventures of Prince Achmed aired again recently on TCM and it made me look up a post that I had written on it and its creator, Lotte Reiniger back in early 2010.  I am so enthralled by her mastery of her medium, which is silhouette animation and think her work should be better known than it is that I thought I would run this post again today along with an added biographical video.  Hopefully, if  you enjoy her wonderful work you will be inspired to look further into her art.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)I first saw a film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, from Lotte Reiniger several years ago in a series about early silent films. It was made in 1926 Germany and was one of the first animated films made. It’s a form of animation that Reiniger pioneered and mastered, based on Eastern shadow theatre. Using silhouette figures, each is painstakingly cut and hinged then filmed in small movements with time lapse photography to produce motion in the film. This film took three years to complete. 

lotte-reiniger-11In this telling of the Arabian Nights stories, I was immediately struck by the beauty and movement of the colors in the film. Each cell was tinted by hand to produce intense bursts of color that gave the film a gorgeous surreal quality. The movements of the figures in the film are smooth and natural, very subtle. I found myself so taken with watching the movements and changes that I found myself not following the story. But I didn’t care. It was beautiful to see and sparked the imagination. 

Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981), born in Germany and living most of her post-WW II life in Britain, left quite a body of work from a career that spanned over 50 years, including one of the first film versions of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle. She’s pretty much unknown in popular culture which is a great shame. Her work is marvelous and deserves to be seen. 

Here’s a small clip of Prince Achmed along with a biographical film:

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