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THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMET

Germany, 1926 (MIFF 1957, Programme 13)

Director: Lotte Reineger

The Adventures of Prince Achmet has the distinction of being the first full length animated film ever made. After an initial failure to get a major release in Berlin, the film was shown in Paris and was received there and subsequently in other parts of the world with enthusiasm.

Unlike Disney's work, this is not a drawn film but a silhouette production, using only cut out figures to animate the action ... a technique often used by cartoonists but Lotte Reiniger is the only person who has employed the medium to make a full length feature.

Three stories of the Arabian Nights are used, "Aladdin", "The Flying Horse", and "Prince Achmet". With small silhouette figures she conjures up the stories of Scheherezade in a most fascinating and delightful manner.

Within its self-imposed limits, its characterisation is amazingly successful; it is a film of many moods and much beauty, while the cataclysmic battle between good and evil at the climax is brilliant enough to evoke the memory of one's nightmares and delights of fairy-tale time.

Lotte Reiniger's career began in 1918 when Paul Wegener, the German actor and film director, asked her to design the silhouette titles for his Pied Piper of Hamelin. During the next five years she learnt her trade with four or five short silhouette films and then conceived the idea for a full length film on the Arabian Nights which took four years to complete. With the advent of sound came Carmen, Puss-ln-Boots, The Little Chimney Sweep and Papageno. For various reasons she was not able to complete any further projects after 1936, but she recently signed a contract for 26 one-reel films for American television.

The negatives of most of her films were destroyed three days after the liberation of Berlin, but the archives of the British Film Institute held a 35 mm. print of Prince Achmet, from this copy a negative was obtained, new music composed and recorded and prints made in 1954.

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