art, movies

The Abenteuer of Prince Achmed

I recently saw a scene from a film called The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed), accompanied by original score, on an arts channel a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a short clip of what I saw, with a new score by the Khoury Trio. Achmed has escaped to China with the princess. The villain is, of course, in pursuit.

The film was made by a German artist named Lotte Reiniger. It is the oldest animated feature in existence (even older films, created by an Argentine animator, are reportedly lost). The images are silhouettes of cardboard and thin lead sheeting; the look is reminiscent of Asian shadow puppetry.

Reiniger finished the film with her husband in 1926. As leftists, the pair fled Germany as the Nazis rose to power and bounced around Europe in the 1930s before settling in London for the rest of their lives.

There are a few Reiniger works from the 1950s on YouTube, fairy tales she animated for BBC. Jack and the Beanstalk, for example:

But they don’t quite have the audacity of a scene like Prince Achmed visiting a harem.