Animated Orientalism

All images are stills from The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

Tonight's post picks up on yesterday's orientalist theme but with a slightly more benign turn. We look at one of the greatest contributions to cinema when it was in its infancy. This is the third oldest full-length animated film, but it is the oldest one that still survives: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) directed by Lotte Reiniger. It took Reiniger three years, using cut-outs similar to Javanese Wayang shadow puppets. She animated the figures frame by frame with the help of avant-garde artists such as Walter Ruttmann, Berthold Bartosch, and Carl Koch. Wiki summarizes the plot:
The story is based on elements taken from the collection 1001 Arabian Nights, specifically The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou featured in Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book. With the assistance of Aladdin, the Witch of the Fiery Mountain, and a magic horse, the title character reclaims the magic lamp and conquers the African sorcerer. The culminating scene in the film is the battle between "die Hexe" (the witch) and "der afrikanische Zauberer" (the African sorcerer), in which those characters undergo fabulous transformations. All is well in the end: Aladdin marries Dinarsade (Achmed's sister and daughter of the Caliph); Achmed marries Pari Banu; the African sorcerer is defeated; and the foursome return to the Caliph's kingdom.
The original score was composed by Wolfgang Zeller. While the link still works, see this beautiful piece of film history below the jump.

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