Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (1926)

The Adventures of Prince Achmed was the first full-length animated film and despite being 75 years old, the silhouette animation looks clean, fresh and technically adroit.
Lotte Reiniger spent three years making this silent animated film based on the Arabian Nights legends. She worked with animator Bertold Bartosch and background artist Walter Ruttman for three years on the film.
A wicked sorcerer tricks Prince Achmed into riding a magical flying horse. The heroic prince is able to subdue the magical horse, which he uses to fly off to many adventures. While travelling, he falls in love with the beautiful Princess Peri Banu and must defeat an army of demons to win her heart.
Reiniger made the entire film frame-by-frame with elaborate paper cutouts under a camera. The paper cutouts were jointed using wires and delicately arranged on top of a lightbox, where it was photographed frame by frame. A modern, existential condition is visible in the construction of her silhouettes: fragmented pieces of paper bolted together at various joints, moving mechanically from frame to frame.

A study of natural movement is very important, so that the little figures appear to move just as men and women and animals do. The backgrounds for the characters are cut out with scissors as well and designed to give a unified style to the whole picture. They are cut from layers of transparent paper.
The color-tinted film uses a diverse cast of characters, animals and elaborate backgrounds that make an otherwise limited monochromatic experience come alive.
And the music adds narrative to the piece, with each character having their own theme.
Human gestures, in particular, are wonderfully underplayed, helping the film throughout, as well as rendering several scenes with an ethereal, erotic quality.
Lotte Reiniger brings a unique perspective to the look of traditional characters, as she uses intricate Eastern details to show off astoundingly delicate filigree cutting work and an amazing grasp of the way in which shapes work together and of optical illusions.
You can buy The Adventures of Prince Achmed dvd and the essay The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unforgettable for its dreamy, magical atmosphere! L.R.'s skill in using cut outs to bring to life a story which seems straight out of the Arabian Nights is simply incredible!