The Adventures of Prince Achmed

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Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
PrinzenAchmedTitle.png
Title card
Directed by
Written byLotte Reiniger
Music byWolfgang Zeller
CinematographyCarl Koch
Distributed by
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • February 1926 (1926-02) (Germany)
Running time
  • 65 minutes
  • (at 24 frames/s)
CountryGermany (Weimar Republic)
Language

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (German: Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) is a 1926 German animated fairytale film by Lotte Reiniger. It is the oldest surviving animated feature film; two earlier ones were made in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani, but they are considered lost.[1] The Adventures of Prince Achmed features a silhouette animation technique Reiniger had invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera.[2] The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets, though hers were animated frame by frame, not manipulated in live action. The original prints featured color tinting.

Several famous avant-garde animators worked on this film with Lotte Reiniger, among them Walter Ruttmann, Berthold Bartosch, and Carl Koch.[3][4]

The story is based on elements from the One Thousand and One Nights written by Hanna Diyab, including "Aladdin" and "The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Perī-Bānū".

Plot[edit]

An African sorcerer conjures up a flying horse, which he shows to the Caliph. When the sorcerer refuses to sell it for any amount of gold, the Caliph offers any treasure he has. The sorcerer chooses Dinarsade, the Caliph's daughter, to her great distress. Prince Achmed, Dinarsade's brother, objects, but the sorcerer persuades him to try out the horse. It carries the prince away, higher and higher into the sky, as he does not know how to control it. The Caliph has the sorcerer imprisoned.

Pari Banu (center) with her attendants, preparing to bathe

When Achmed discovers how to make the horse descend, he finds himself in a strange foreign land, a magical island called Wak Wak. He is greeted by a bevy of attractive maidens. When they begin fighting for his attention, he flies away to a lake. There, he watches as Pari Banu, the beautiful ruler of the land of Wak Wak, arrives with her attendants to bathe. When they spot him, they all fly away, except for Pari Banu, for Achmed has her magical flying feather costume. She flees on foot, but he captures her. He gains her trust when he returns her feathers. They fall in love. She warns him, however, that the demons of Wak Wak will try to kill him.

The sorcerer frees himself from his chains. Transforming himself into a bat, he seeks out Achmed. The prince chases the sorcerer (back in human form) and falls into a pit. While Achmed fights a giant snake, the sorcerer takes Pari Banu to China and sells her to the Emperor. The sorcerer returns and pins Achmed under a boulder on top of a mountain. However, the Witch of the Flaming Mountain notices him and rescues Achmed. The sorcerer is her arch-enemy, so she helps Achmed rescue Pari Banu from the Emperor.

Then the demons of Wak Wak find the couple and, despite Achmed's fierce resistance, carry Pari Banu off. Achmed forces a captive demon to fly him to Wak Wak. However, the gates of Wak Wak are locked. He then slays a monster who is attacking a boy named Aladdin.

Aladdin tells of how he, a poor tailor, was recruited by the sorcerer to retrieve a magic lamp from a cave. When Aladdin returned to the cave entrance, the sorcerer demanded the lamp before letting him out. Aladdin refused, so the sorcerer sealed him in. Aladdin accidentally released one of the genies of the lamp and ordered it to take him home. He then courted and married Dinarsade. One night, Dinarsade, Aladdin's magnificent palace and the lamp disappeared. Blamed by the Caliph, Aladdin fled to avoid being executed. A storm at sea cast him ashore at Wak Wak. When he tried to pluck fruit from a "tree", it turned into a monster and grabbed him, but Achmed killed it. Achmed realizes the sorcerer had been behind this and is further enraged. He reveals to Aladdin that his palace and the lamp were stolen by the sorcerer because of his obsession for Dinarsade.

Then the witch arrives. Since only the lamp can open the gates, she agrees to attack the sorcerer to get it. They engage in a magical duel, each transforming into various creatures. After a while, they resume their human forms and fling fireballs at each other. Finally, the witch slays the sorcerer. With the lamp, they are able to enter Wak Wak, just in time to save Pari Banu from being thrown to her death. A fierce battle erupts. A demon steals the lamp, but the witch gets it back. She summons creatures from the lamp who defeat the demons. One hydra-like creature seizes Pari Banu. When Achmed cuts off one of its heads, two more grow back immediately, but the witch stops this regeneration, allowing Achmed to kill it. A flying palace then settles to the ground. Inside, Aladdin finds Dinarsade and Dinasade reunites with her brother. The two couples bid goodbye to the witch and fly home in the palace.

Production[edit]

Reiniger required several years, from 1923 to 1926, to make this film.[4] Each frame had to be painstakingly filmed, and 24 frames were needed per second.[4]

Restoration[edit]

No original German nitrate prints of the film are known to still exist. While the original film featured color tinting, prints available just before the restoration had all been in black and white. Working from surviving nitrate prints, German and British archivists restored[5] the film during 1998 and 1999, including reinstating the original tinted image by using the Desmet method.

Availability[edit]

The film is screened fairly often on Turner Classic Movies. Before shuttering in November 2018, the film was available to stream through the subscription-based FilmStruck. Filmstruck's follow up service, Criterion Channel, a service from the Criterion Collection, now streams it in Region 1. English-market DVDs are available, distributed by Milestone Films and available in NTSC R1 (from Image) and PAL R2 (from the BFI).[6] Both versions of the DVD are identical. They feature both an English-subtitled version (the intertitles are in German) and an English voice-over.

The English-subtitled film is available via Fandor and LiveTree.

Legacy[edit]

A homage to this film can be spotted in Disney's Aladdin (1992); a character named Prince Achmed has a minor role in the film. The art style also served as inspiration for the Steven Universe episode "The Answer".[7]

Score[edit]

The original score was composed by German composer Wolfgang Zeller in direct collaboration with the animation of the film. Reiniger created photograms for the orchestras, which were common in better theatres of the time, to follow along the action.[8]

Contemporary Scorings[edit]

  • The Silk Road Ensemble accompanied the film with a live improvised performance on Western strings and instruments such as the oud, ney and sheng in October 2006 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, NY.[9] The Silk Road Ensemble repeated the performance at the Avon Cinema in Providence, Rhode Island, in February 2007.[10]
  • New York City band Morricone Youth composed a new score for the film in 2012 and first performed it live at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn on 28 September 2012.[11] Country Club Records released a vinyl 6-song EP of the score in 2016.[12]
  • Spanish band Caspervek Trio composed a new soundtrack for the movie in 2014 premiered in Vigo, with further performances in Ourense, Liptovský Míkulás and Madrid.[13]
  • The Scottish jazz quartet, S!nk, composed and performed a new score for the film in 2017 as part of the Hidden Door arts festival in Edinburgh as part of a series of events celebrating the re-opening of the Leith Theatre after being closed for 25 years.[14][15]
  • Students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire composed a score for the film, which premiered at the Flatpack Film Festival at Dig Brew Co. on 22 April 2018 [16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bendazzi, Giannalberto (1996). "Quirino Cristiani, The Untold Story of Argentina's Pioneer Animator". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  2. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2009). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons (3rd ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-8160-6600-1.
  3. ^ Reiniger, Lotte (1970). Shadow Theatres, Shadow Films. London: BT Batsford. ISBN 978-0-7134-2286-3.
  4. ^ a b c "Lotte Reiniger's Introduction to The Adventures of Prince Achmed" (PDF). Milestone Films. 2001. pp. 9–11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Restaurierungsbericht Achmed" (PDF). Deutsches Filmmuseum (in German). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Adventures of Prince Achmed". Milestone Films. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  7. ^ Jusino, Teresa (30 November 2015). "Some of Comics' Biggest Names Shout-Out Their Favorite Female Creators". The Mary Sue. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  8. ^ Reiniger, Lotte (1970). "The Adventures of Prince Achmed, or What May Happen to Somebody Making a Full Length Cartoon in 1926". The Silent Picture. 8: 2–4.
  9. ^ Zuckerman, Alicia (1 October 2006). "Smooth operation". New York. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016.
  10. ^ Van Siclen, Bill (28 January 2007). "A magical pairing of animated movie and live music". The Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011.
  11. ^ "The Influence of Prince Achmed". Nitehawk Cinema. 27 September 2012. Archived from the original on 21 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Morricone Youth – The Adventures of Prince Achmed". Discogs. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  13. ^ Meyer, Luis (13 August 2015). "Cine mudo para abrirse de orejas". El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  14. ^ https://www.heraldscotland.com/arts_ents/15315690.hidden-door-review-the-adventures-of-prince-achmed-leith-theatre/#comments-anchor
  15. ^ https://www.theplughole.org/film-scores/
  16. ^ "RBC – The Adventures of Prince Achmed". BCU. Retrieved 15 May 2019.

External links[edit]