Movie Making Madames Part Three: Lotte Reiniger

31 Oct

The greatest achievement in animation is universally regarded as Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. At the time it was called “Disney’s Folly” so ludicrous was the idea that audiences would be willing to sit down and watch and entire feature length film that had been drawn. As we all know these initial doubts were completely unfounded. Prior to this there were many shorts made with cel animation (drawing or painting onto transparent sheets or ‘cels’) but other mediums had been used to create animated films.

image from here

Lotte Reiniger, a German born filmmaker who later became a British citizen, made shadow puppets out of paper, tin and cardboard and used them to make the ground breaking feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926. It was her only feature length animation but as with the rest of her work Reniger drew inspiration from fairy tales for the subject matter. Lotte Reiniger originally trained as an actress, studying under Max Reinhardt though she rarely acted in person. Instead she drew on her knowledge of movement when animating her puppets using complex techniques and carefully choreographed movements.

Reiniger made all of her puppets herself and devised the movements meticulously. All in all it took three years for her to complete The Adventures of Prince Achmed and the majority of her work was either short films or inserts for other films. When she created a short shadow play for a film by French director Jean Renoir it led him to compare her to Mozart.

Lotte Reiniger worked consistently until 1963 when her husband and producer, Carl Koch, died. After this she retired from filmmaking until a brief comeback in the 1970s. The National Film Board of Canada persuaded her to make two short films for them, Aucassin and Nicolette in 1975 and The Rose and The Ring in 1979.

Part Four looks at the rise of Women as independent filmmaking on both sides of the Atlantic with Maya Deren and Germaine Dulac.

About the writer: Sarah is a filmmaker and writer with an obsession for luscious visuals and a distain for tomatoes (they are a sneaky and untrustworthy foodstuff). If she’s not blogging, she’ll be watching films or running around with her video camera.


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