The evolution of animation since the reign of Reiniger

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Rita Baukrowitz and Andy Giorbino

Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger, born 1899, was a German film director and the foremost pioneer of silhouette animation. Her passion for cinema and precision in work left a lasting impression on everyone including Walt Disney, who took her to Hollywood.

Reiniger made over 40 films in her career, before passing away in 1981.

To mark Goethe Zentrum’s 10th anniversary and the Hamburg – Hyderabad partnership, a guest lecture on Reiniger was held at AISFM recently. The speakers were Rita Baukrowitz and Andy Giorbino.

Rita Baukrowitz is the Head of International Programming at Kinemathek Hamburg. She studied ethnology, sociology and journalism at the University of Goettingen with an emphasis on theory and practice of ethnographic film, movie and documentary.

She was employed in various fields of visual arts and film. Since 2001, she’s been working as a Research Associate for the Cinematheque Hamburg and is responsible for programming, press and public relations at the cinema Kommunales Kino Metropolis, Hamburg.

The lecture began with a screening of Reiniger’s first silent animated feature, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) accompanied by live music composed by Andy Giorbino.

The guest lecture mapped the evolution of animation films in Germany from 1926 till today

Rita spoke about Reiniger’s animated film, Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed or The Adventures of Prince Achmed. This was the first feature length animation film of Germany (65 minutes), about a prince who is given a flying horse by a cunning wizard and is sent off on an adventurous trip.

On the trip, he meets Aladdin, battles demons and befriends a witch, all to win the heart of a princess. Rita screened a few stunning sequences from the film and spoke about the techniques used by Reiniger back in 1926.

Rita spoke about how each silhouette was cut by hand with a nail scissor. She threw light on how Reiniger manipulated each joint of the characters to create movement. Rita also spoke about the restoration of the film and how each frame was tinted with color.

“Apparently, there were over 200,000 shots before the editing was complete and the film took almost four years to be made,” said Rita.

“Reiniger found inspiration to make this film from a shadow puppet show that she had seen and so she used the same shadowing technique in the film,” informed Rita.

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One of the founding fathers among the musicians of a Hamburg based avant garde music and experimental ‘New Wave’ scene (“Hamburger Schule”), Andy Giorbino composed live music for the film, years after it released.

The music in the original was provided by Wolfgang Zeller. But Andy’s arrangements combine both a live act and a pre-recorded electronic soundtrack. The composer then showed a clipping of ‘Prince Achmed’ with the sound that he used as a background score, and how it differed from that of the original composer.

Andy Giorbino demonstrated the software that he used for composing the piece of music and spoke about how he gives a different acoustic identification for each animation.

“For all scenes that included the flying horse, I’ve used the flute. The flute is a very compelling and fluid instrument. It took me an entire month to compose the background score,” revealed Andy.

“I did not want to refer to the music originally used for the film in 1926. I wanted something original. So it was a tough task,” he said.

A composer who follows all genres of music ardently, Andy knew well the impact of music in Hindi films. “Music plays an intricate part in Indian films. It forms a very strong bond between the visuals and audience,” he said.

Andy then went on to reveal his Indian inspiration. “I have been inspired by Indian music. In fact, I did use some elements in films that I composer for. I call it the ‘Indian’ shots,” he said, with a laugh.

Meanwhile, on the filmmaking front, Rita was mighty impressed with the talent coming to the forefront in Indian cinema. “People love Bollywood music in Germany. Indian cinema is much celebrated there.”

Showed her appreciation for indie filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, she said, “Anurag is an amazing and talented filmmaker. I had invited him to Hamburg recently as part of the Connecting Cultures Festival. It was a great experience.”

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