Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures Of Prince Achmed)

I hadn't heard of the film "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" until I stumbled across a link and a couple of stills on a blog earlier tonight. The film is the oldest surviving (and possibly the first) animated feature, made in in 1926 by German animator Lotte Reiniger.

The film was shot in a stunning silhouette style that makes me think of Balinese shadow puppets, in black and white (of course) that was then hand tinted. The original German print ran at 81 minutes as the film was run at 18 frames per second, but ran at 65 to 66 minutes everywhere else when shown at the more standard 24 frames per second.

According to imdb:
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.

OMG, can you imagine? 250,000 set-ups. Cutting all those stunning silhouettes? My mind, it boggles. The stylish end result is a bit like an Erte drawing come to life.

There's a DVD available through Milestone Films, which I think is going to have to make its way onto my wish list once the AUS/US comparison stops tanking. There was a 4 minute sample on youtube, but it has been taken down due to a copyright claim by Milestone Films. However, in the meantime there are some 1 or 2 minute snippets still available when you search The Adventures of Prince Achmed in Google video. There is also a comprehensive site with lots of background links at Le Palais des dessins anim├ęs [in English].

I love finding out that there are people in this world mad or inspired (or both) enough to spend their labours making something wonderful. Then, now, and I see no reason why not, in the future. Fantastic. Now all I have to do is see a full copy of the film!

[Found originally via a blog entry at 2 or 3 things I know.]


Charisse said...

oh my goodness this looks amazing, I MUST get a copy of this DVD!!
I wonder if Dr What video store would have a copy, or maybe it's too obscure even for them.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

oh MY - wow. yummy.


The Other Andrew said...

Reecie, if you find someone local that has it - let me know please! (Actually, I wonder if the boys at Bravery, Repetition & Noise on King St can get it?...)

Speedy, I know right? 1926! Crazy.

John C said...

TV here used to show quite a few of her films in the days when they still cared about this sort of thing. Last time I looked there were several on YouTube. And a recent Bjork video plundered that silhouette style.

Peter said...

Thanks Andrew, I just bought it at Amazon. Saw the other day just a snippet somewhere and now I can enjoy the whole movie.

ilduce said...

Good news, it's available thorugh Netflix

The Other Andrew said...

We don't have Netflix in Oz sadly, but it is good news. Hey, we're only just getting a watered down TiVo. It's like there has to be some trade off for all the natural wonders, unique mammals etc.

thombeau said...

Wow. Must have.