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Filmprov Fables & Fairytales: Lotte Reiniger

Another incredible female filmmaker featured in our upcoming Filmprov performance.

Filmprov is a mini concert series produced once a month featuring the screening of films with a live improvised soundtrack.

This month we celebrate the films of pioneering animator and filmmaker Lotte Reiniger.

Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (2 June 1899 – 19 June 1981) was a German film director and the foremost pioneer of silhouette animation. Her best known films are The Adventures of Prince Achmed, from 1926—thought to be one of the oldest surviving feature-length animated films—and Papageno (1935). Reiniger is also noted for having devised a predecessor to the first multiplane camera; she made more than 40 films, all using her invention.

As a teenager, Reiniger developed a love of cinema, first with the films of Georges Méliès for their special effects, then the films of the actor and director Paul Wegener, known today for The Golem (1920). In 1915, she attended a lecture by Wegener that focused on the fantastic possibilities of animation.Reiniger eventually convinced her parents to allow her to enroll in the acting group to which Wegener belonged, the Theatre of Max Reinhardt. She began by making costumes and props and working backstage. She started making silhouette portraits of the various actors around her, and soon she was making elaborate title cards for Wegener's films, many of which featured her silhouettes.

In 1918, Reiniger animated wooden rats and created the animated intertitles for Wegener's Der Rattenfänger von Hameln (The Pied Piper of Hamelin). The success of this work got her admitted into the Institut für Kulturforschung (Institute for Cultural Research), an experimental animation and shortfilm studio.

The first film Reiniger directed was Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (The Ornament of the Enamoured Heart, 1919), a five-minute piece involving two lovers and an ornament that reflects their moods. The film was very well received, and its success opened up many new connections for Reiniger in the animation industry.

She made six short films over the next few years, all produced and photographed by her husband, including the fairytale animation Aschenputtel (1922). During this time, she found herself at the centre of a large group of ambitious German animators, including Bartosch, Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann and Oskar Fischinger.

In 1923, she was approached by Louis Hagen, He asked her to do a feature-length animated film.There was some difficulty that came with doing this, however. Reiniger is quoted as saying "We had to think twice. This was a never heard of thing. Animated films were supposed to make people roar with laughter, and nobody had dared to entertain an audience with them for more than ten minutes. Everybody to whom we talked in the industry about the proposition was horrified."The result was The Adventures of Prince Achmed, completed in 1926, one of the first animated feature films, with a plot that is a pastiche of stories from One Thousand and One Nights. Although it failed to find a distributor for almost a year, once premiered in Paris (thanks to the support of Jean Renoir), it became a critical and popular success.

Reiniger uses lines that can almost be called "colorful" to represent the film's exotic locations. Today, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is thought to be one of the oldest surviving feature-length animated films, if not the oldest. It is also considered to be the first avant-garde full-length animated feature.

Reiniger, in devising the predecessor to the first multiplane camera for certain effects, preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade. Above her animation table, a camera with a manual shutter was placed in order to achieve this. She placed planes of glass to achieve a layered effect. The setup was then backlit. This camera setup was later popular in cel animation. Reiniger wrote instructions on how to construct her "trick-table" in her book, Shadow puppets, shadow theatres, and shadow films. In addition to Reiniger's silhouette actors, Prince Achmed boasted dream-like backgrounds by Walter Ruttmann.




Come join Verisimo and Filmprov as we journey through the whimsical world that this incredible woman created in her depictions of classic stories such as Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Thumbelina, and The Magic Horse.

March 29, 2019 at Anticafe in Old Port Montreal.

Doors at 8pm.

Unlimited coffee, tea, and cafe amenities included with admission.


*If money is a reason to not attend please contact us privately. We believe that the enjoyment of live art should not be restricted do to financial restraint.

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