Adventures of Prince Achmed, The (1926)

[Note: The following review is of a non-Guide for the Film Fanatic title; click here to read more.]

“Where is the magic lamp?”

Synopsis:
Prince Achmed accidentally trades his sister to a wicked magician in exchange for a flying horse, who takes him to the island of Wak-Wak, where he falls in love with a bird princess named Pari Banu. When demons steal Pari Banu away from Achmed, his only chance to rescue her is with the help of Aladdin’s magic lantern.

Genres:

  • Animated Features
  • Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
  • German Films
  • Royalty and Nobility
  • Silent Films
  • Witches and Wizards

Review:
Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed — considered to be the first surviving animated feature film — is a classic example of a Missing Title which Peary can’t be blamed for omitting from his GFTFF, given that it wasn’t restored and made available for viewing until 1999. While it clearly holds an indubitable place in cinema history, it also happens to be an enormously enjoyable fantasy film, one which maintains interest from beginning to end simply from the sheer, giddy inventiveness of its groundbreaking animation. Working in a self-made studio on the property of a benefactor, Reiniger — just 23 at the time — collaborated with her husband, Carl Koch, to create this “silhouette film” by cutting intricate jointed silhouettes out of black paper, then painstakingly moving them across artfully conceived backdrops to create the illusion of motion (much like stop-motion animators would do with clay).

Reiniger was a consummate storyteller, using as her inspiration the Arabian folk tale collection One Thousand and One Nights — but one gets the feeling she could have chosen just about any source material and created a similarly breathtaking masterpiece. Indeed, while the episodic story itself is reasonably compelling, it’s Reiniger’s artwork which really holds one’s attention: watch the intricate movements and interactions of the characters with their environment and with each other, as objects and people shift shape, and the landscape is kept in constant motion; it’s simply a fascinating process to see unfolding. Sadly, the film didn’t earn enough money to satisfy her benefactor, who considered his patronage a monetary investment; add to this the complications of an approaching World War, and it’s unfortunately easy to see how Reiniger’s promising career became compromised. With that said, she continued to make shorter silhouette films throughout the rest of her life, and fans can now easily view many of them — including a commercial for Nivea (!), as well as numerous European fairy tale adaptations. However, Prince Achmed (her only feature) remains her undisputed masterpiece.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lovely, intricate animation




Must See?
Absolutely; this historically ground-breaking animation gem should be seen by all film lovers.

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