Friday, 10 January 2014

Papageno in silhouette Reiniger 1935

More Weimar silhouettes from Lotte Reiniger, this time a ten-minute fantasy on Papageno, made in 1935 as part of her projected series "Silhouetten Opernhaus", the first of which was Zehn Minuten Mozart (1930). described by her as a "Schattenspile zu Meisterwerken der Tonkunst", animations that illustrated music.  Zehn Minuten Mozart brings together snippets from different works by Mozart to form a coy narrative which delights a Romantic imagination. Papageno is much more sophisticated, concentrating on Papageno and his relationship to nature.

The tighter focus allows Reiniger to create exceptionally elaborate silhouettes - look at  tracery of ferns and vines, which bring out  the delicate intricacy of the music perhaps in a way no staged performance can. Look at Papageno's bells at right . It's hard to believe they were crafted form cardboard. And enjoy the birds as they move and sing. Papageno is teaching them how to sing his name. When Papageno and Papagena sing of their future offspring, a stork pierces eggs and little children dressed as birds pop out.

Reiniger's silhouettes grew out of the old German tradition of Scherenschnitte. The figures could be photographed frame by frame so they could seem to dance on film.  Truly unique and magical, uniting ancient and modern. This is a film which echoes the designs of the 1930's yet feels true to Mozart and feels immortal. Becaause it was made with sound, we also get authentic period performance as soundtrack.

I've written about Lotte Reiniger before (see my piece Weimar animation on Reiniger's The Star of Bethlehem which gives links to the British Film Institute archive. Reiniger knew just about everyone in avant garde film circles, many of whom I've written about on this site (see Ruttman : Berlin, DieSinfonie der Grossstadt) Even when she had to stay out of Nazi Germany, she hung out with the likes of Renoir and Cocteau. Interestingly, the assistant she uses on this film is Arthur Neher. Any relation to Caspar Neher, whom she must have known from Brecht/Eisler circles?

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