Sunday, August 3, 2008

Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Lotte Reineger, 1926)

A truly beautiful movie made by animating silhouettes or shadow puppets. Reineger cut out each puppet with scissors, attaching moving parts with thread. The astonishing detail—the lacy clothing and the flight dress of the Peri, for instance, and the fantastic palaces and costumes—are all incredibly fine and precise, and as beautiful as any Indonesian shadow puppet I’ve seen.

The story centres around magical compulsion and getting hopelessly lost. A wicked African sorceror tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a flying horse, at first exhilirating and charming, but before long the enchanted horse has gotten Achmed thoroughly him lost. He lands on an island where he chances sees three Peris land beside a lake and take off their bird identity/costume to bathe. Peris are winged creatures halfway between angels and humans.
Prince Achmed pursues and captures the princess Peri Banu. She’s terrified and shy, but he slowly wins her over, but the sorceror returns to steal the horse and leave the Prince all alone. He meets Aladdin, who has also been tricked by the sorceror, and together with the Hexe, apparently a fire-witch, they defeat the sorceror and all the divs and demons of the island where Peri Banu has been taken prisoner, and they return home to Aladdin’s palace, Prince Achmed with Peri Banu, and Aladdin with Princess Dinarba.

I'm not aware of other animations done wholly with shadow puppets, so perhaps Reineger's masterpiece is unique.

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