Thursday, June 2, 2016

A rapturous animated kaleidoscope

I was thrilled to see German filmmaker extraordinaire Lotte Reiniger on the Google home page this morning. Born with magical hands, Lotte was a self-taught artist skilled in the ancient folk art of shadow plays, and master of her craft—paper cut-out silhouettes. Not just flat cut-outs either. If a figure needed to make complex or even supple movements, Reiniger would make 25 or 50 separate silhouette pieces and join them together with lead wire hinges. Oh pioneer! She made dozens films using these intricate cutouts in an achingly long process of stop-action photography, but my most favorite film is her 1926 Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, or The Adventures of Prince Achmed

This is the oldest surviving animated film!

Sometimes you can catch this film on Turner Classic Movies channel, or if you're a film geek like me, you can just buy the DVD. The magical film us made entirely of these complex paper cutouts with dramatically tinted backdrops behind the shadows. Click here to see how her work was made in the Art of Lotte Reiniger.

Some fairy tales are more magical than others, and this is one of them. I envy you if you have never seen this astoundingly beautiful film. Critic Wesley Morris called this film "a rapturous animated kaleidoscope." Watch a little sneak peek here, and prepare to be dazzled!

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