The Adventures Of Prince Achmed (1925) Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
Based on stories from "The Arabian Nights." 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. The entire film is animated using the silhouette technique, which employs movable cardboard and metal cutouts posed in front of illuminated sheets of glass.
Normally I do not upload animation, but this film is an extremely important part of cinema history. It is the oldest existing (and possibly first) full-length animated film and was the debut of German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger who would later bring us many other films in the fantasy/childrens genres. Her technique in this film was groundbreaking and evokes strong emotions even to this day. This film is also a testament to women's contibutions to cinematography, which is, even today, dominated by men.
For more info on Lotte Reiniger see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotte_Reiniger
Lotte Reiniger .... animator
Carl Koch .... animator (uncredited)
German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) was fascinated with cutouts and puppetry from childhood. After seeing a silent film by the great Georges Méliès as a teenager, she knew that movies would be her destiny. Reiniger loved make believe and would eventually make films on a whole series of fabulous characters, from Dr. Dolittle (1928) and Puss in Boots (1936) to Thumbelina (1954) and Hansel & Gretel (1955).
Reiniger's area of expertise was in silhouette animation. Using a pair of scissors, she produced amazingly elaborate images from black paper and then had them back-lit and photographed one frame at a time, moving the cutouts slightly each time, thereby producing the illusion of movement. Her masterwork, after three years of labor, was THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, produced eleven years before Disney's SNOW WHITE, thus becoming the world's first animated feature film.
The movie tells an exciting story from the world of the Arabian Nights, full of magic, menace & monsters, and incorporates the tale of Aladdin and his love for Achmed's sister Dinarzade, thus giving the movie two valiant heroes instead of only one. The romantic exploits are slightly leavened with a touch of delightful decadence and good humor, exemplified by Achmed's few moments in the seraglio on the magical Isle of Waq Waq.
It is fascinating how these pieces of black paper can evoke an emotional response from the viewer. It is a testimony to the wonderful artistry of their creator, Lotte Reiniger, a woman who richly deserves to be more celebrated by those interested in cinema history.
The idea for "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" is unusual and interesting, and Lotte Reiniger uses it to create an enjoyable and distinctive feature. To make such a different approach work so well must have taken large amounts of both skill and patience, as well as the creativity to adapt the stories to the format.
The cutout-style animation that the feature uses ruled out a lot of options for the film-makers, and it put a premium on the careful design of the figures and on well-planned story-telling. At first, the plainness of the silhouette figures is somewhat apparent, but it's not long at all before the story is involving enough, and the animation creative enough, to give the characters and events plenty of life and energy.
The plot itself is taken from some of the old "Arabian Nights" tales, much of it from some of the less-familiar episodes. It is a good adaptation of the material, and the careful details in the outlines of the silhouette figures soon create an atmosphere that works even without colors or special visual tricks.
The style allows your own imagination to flesh out the characters, rather than providing an artist's depiction for every detail in the story. In this respect it makes an interesting contrast with the more usual kind of fantasy film that does try to make everything expressly visual. As soon as you get used to the style and concentrate on the story, it becomes quite interesting and at times even engrossing. Overall, it's an imaginative feature that works quite well.
In our age of CG and digital enhancements, it's difficult (for some) to remember a time when things were done by hand and hand alone. Thus, is the case of animation. This painstaking art has been replaced with programs that not only speed up the process of single-frame rendering, they can even mimic pen strokes and outlines.
So it's a rare treat to come across a unique work that illustrates the artistry of early animation in Film. A shining example is Reinger's "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" . There's really no preparation for this feature, one just needs to succumb to the beautiful imagery that begins to reveal itself, one silhouette at a time. It completely takes us off the conventional track and into the realm best inhabited by forgotten dreams. One forgets that one is watching a series of contours and like the traditional Nang Yai shadow puppet play, the journey has you swept away in a short time!
Some may not be as impressed with this `old-fashioned' approach to story telling. It doesn't compare to the spectacles of the `instant classic' available these days. It's a bit `clanky' and possibly too analog for others. On the other hand, if you're looking for a whimsical and imaginative tale of magic, travels to mystical lands, heroism and love (with a charming score), you won't be in the least bit disappointed with this one.
Lotte Reiniger's "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" is one of the most amazing achievements in the history of cinema. The first animated movie ever, Achmed was based on the ancient stories "Arabian Nights." It took her three whole years to make, shooting over 250,000 cardboard cutouts with the assistance of her husband Carl Koch.
The German silent film begins with the creation of a flying horse. The African Magician tricks Prince Achmed into flying the horse, hoping to rid the kingdom of Achmed's presence. But Achmed is able to control the horse, and flies off to an island, where he finds the beautiful princess Peri Banu. In order to win her heart he must defeat the Magician, the Chinese Emperor, and an army of demons, with the help of Aladdin and a mysterious witch.
The irony of this movie is that the German subtitles are subtitled in English. But don't let that throw you, this silent masterpiece is magnificent film-making at its best, and certainly a landmark in cinema.
# The oldest existing (and possibly first) full-length animated film.
# Lotte Reiniger cut figures out of black cardboard with a pair of scissors, and joined movable parts with thread in order to animate them. In the years 1923-1926, about 250,000 frame-by-frame stills were made and 96,000 were used in the film. Her husband, Carl Koch, was responsible for the photography in all her films until his death in 1963.
# Although some non-public screenings of the completed film occurred in Berlin, Germany as early as 2 May 1926, the first public screening was in Paris in July 1926, through the mediation of Jean Renoir.