I was introduced to Lotte Reiniger’s work at the BFI Film Academy. Her work is all so delicate and her fairytale adaptations are truly enchanting.
German-born Lotte is a silhouette animator who took her childhood love of Chinese shadow puppetry and made it into a fruitful career. Reigner worked with her husband Carl Koch, a film historian on many of her films. He became her producer and camera operator, together they produced a huge number of animation films. Possibly the most significant of her films is Prince Achmed, a feature film she produced in her twenties, it is often credited as the first animated feature-length film. It was her first and only attempt at a full-length animated film. Short films were her forte and she spent the rest of her career focusing on short films and sequences for other people’s films.
When you look at her work, it is fragile and beautiful. She would cut all of her silhouettes without drawing them first, she would simply hold the scissors still in her right hand and use the other to manipulate paper around the blades. Sometimes the figures would be incredibly complex with up to 25-50 separate pieces joined together. Her films are 18 frames per second giving them a kitschy feel, the musical scores and voice-over narration she frequently used helped carry the story in each of her films.
Adults and children can both enjoy her works as they generate feelings of nostalgia and magic. Reiniger doesn’t get the credit she deserves for the 70 odd films she produced. This may be because many of her original negatives were lost as she fled from Germany to the UK around the time of the war, meaning most of the modern prints are copies so a lot of the fine detail has been lost.