This article reviews the techniques and Expressionist plot devices used to create the characters' emotions and stylized sets. Of note is the detail about the characters and the silhouettes. The silhouettes are intricate and include specific corporal detail about the hands and eyes. Even an imaginary camera is created as Reiniger uses panoramic shots, long shots, close-ups, different camera angles, and even special effects. She would later make other films such as Carmen, Papageno, Dr. Dolittle and His Animal. The article particularly discusses the Island of Wak Wak; it is as exotic, or perhaps more so, as the main city, with shots including a great amount of fantastical detail. The tropical rain forest on Wak Wak has twisted trees and outspread fronds that resemble the twisted limbs and outspread fingers of the characters. Finally, the climactic battle is filled with complex action and jagged-shaped, fantastical monsters being diced by Prince Achmed. Even the scene where Aladdin and the witch are summoning the genie, the lighting is innovative and unique for a shadow play.
The article is relevant to the thesis in its detail of the Expressionist devices and the techniques used in the film. The mid-1920s, when Reiniger made her film, were in the heart of the German Expressionist movement. Reiniger had learned from and with some of the influential Expressionist directors, so it was no surprise that Prince Achmed would have so many Expressionist techniques. Expressionism was appropriate for the plot as well since it dealt with an exotic Middle Eastern tale filled with magic and fantasy.
This article details some of the technological and creational aspects of Reiniger's film. First it points out how Reiniger drew her ideas for films from fairy tales and legends, which is no different for Prince Achmed (from 1001 Arabian Nights). Furthermore its use of tinting allows there to be toned backgrounds for the black silhouettes. Furthermore, Reiniger had designed an early form of multi-plane camera, which gives a 3D-effect by separating foregrounds and backgrounds into different layers. Finally, for complex movements, they had to be built from 25 to 50 pieces, all joined together with fine lead wire, showing the amount of detail that was afforded to each scene.
The article is relevant to the thesis because these techniques, each in their own way, were later used by other filmmakers both in Hollywood and in Europe. Reiniger in particular went on to work on several other puppet shows or shadow plays. The influence of Reiniger's film is particularly noted in the use of the multi-plane camera. Furthermore, the movement is fluid, and the sense of near and far is simply achieved by bringing the many transparent backdrops closer or further from the lens and the light source. As seen in class, Disney used this to create the three-dimensional animation as seen in Bambi.
Rahman, Zora. "German silhouette film meets Indonesian 'wayang'," JAKARTA POST. December 20, 2002.
This article specifically delves into German influence on Disney. The article points out how Expressionism was a reaction to realism in film and often depicted science-fiction, dystopian or otherwise fantastic settings. Expressionism also relied on stylized sets and character expressions to convey the overwhelming mood. Reiniger's film is no different, though the detailed expressions she creates with cardboard cut outs is beyond impressive. The article gives more examples of Disney films with Expressionist influence.
Although slightly redundant with the material in Allan's book, this article is relevant to the thesis in a similar fashion as that book. Reiniger began work on the film in 1923, during the heart of Expressionism in Germany. She studied and worked with Max Reinhardt, among others, who influenced her style and the style of Hollywood after their escape from Nazi Germany. The Adventures of Prince Achmed was highly stylized to emphasize the setting in a fantastic world. Although they are essentially shadows, the characters gesture in expressive manners. Incredible detail is in each shot as the silhouettes move across the constant background. The Expressionist techniques highlight the exoticism portrayed in the film.
Penny Starfield, "Film and Art : On the German Expressionist and the Disney Exhibitions" Transatlantica, 2006:2, Jan 23, 2007.
Allan, Robin. Walt Disney and Europe: European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1999. (Chapter 2)
Robin Allan's book discusses European influences on Disney animated feature films. In particular it discusses the role German Expressionism played in Disney films of the 30s and 40s. The book details how Disney's frequent trips to Europe, and the immigration of Europeans, particularly Germans during the rise of the Nazis, specifically influenced the style of Disney films. Later in the book he discusses Expressionism in Fantasia at length, but the European influence on Disney is apparent in this chapter.
This book is relevant to my thesis because Lotte Reiniger's films exhibited many Expressionist features. The Adventures of Prince Achmed was highly stylized to emphasize the setting in a fantastic world, as can be seen by the Nosferatu-like hands. As with many of the early films, the plots were derived from stories people would have known; in this case, Reiniger's tale is from 1001 Arabian Nights. Also, Expressionist techniques could highlight the exoticism portrayed in the film. Reiniger's use of cardboard cut outs with multiplane cameras also was borrowed by Disney for his later features. The effect of Reiniger's silhouette stop motion animation was to create shadows and various degrees of lighting, both of which were common effects of the German Expressionist movement.