I want to apologize for taking so long to add this. I just got a new job, along with school, tons of homework, been sick, my puppy getting stolen, and getting a new puppy; well, let’s just say I’ve been pretty busy. Basically, after school and work, I’d past out at like 6 or 7 in the afternoon, sleep till 2, do my homework, and then start my day again. Hopefully, it will get easier. Anyways, I have finally watched The Adventures of Prince Achmed and finished my review. The movie is very interesting and I would recommend watching it at least once in your lifetime.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed was released in February 1926 in Germany. It is one of the first animated movies, and the first surviving animated film. The film was directed and written by Lotte Reiniger, who also happens to be a female. I thought that was pretty cool, especially during the time frame. One of the oldest animators turns out to be a female is just tremendous. “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. 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.” (Wikipedia)
“How do the figures move? The technique of this type of film is very simple. As with cartoon drawings, the silhouette films are photographed movement by movement. But instead of using drawings, silhouette marionettes are used. These marionettes are cut out of black cardboard and thin lead, every limb being cut separately and joined with wire hinges. A study of natural movement is very important, so that the little figures appear to move just as men and women and animals do. But this is not a technical problem. The backgrounds for the characters are cut out with scissors as well, and designed to give a unified style to the whole picture. They are cut from layers of transparent paper. When the story is ready, the music chosen, and the soundtrack recorded, then the work for the picture itself begins. Figures and backgrounds are laid out on a glass table. A strong light from underneath makes the wire hinges, etc., disappear and throws up the black figures in relief, while the background appears as a more or less fantastic landscape in keeping with the story. The camera hangs above this table, looking down at the picture arranged below. By means of a wire contrivance the film in the camera can be moved one frame at a time. After the first photograph, the figures are moved into their next position, and the whole photographed again. And so on. The important thing at this stage is to know how much to move the figures so that a lifelike effect may be obtained when the film is run through. The synchronization between sight and sound is secured by carefully measuring the sound track, and preparing a very exactly worked out scenario, in which the number of shots are calculated according to the musical value. These calculations are the basis for the picture, which is then painstakingly photographed.” (Lotte Reiniger)
Lotte Reiniger directed the film. Carl Koch, her husband, was the technical adviser. The animation assistants include Walther Ruttmann, Berthold Bartosch, and Alexander Kardan. Lotte was born in 1899 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. She has made more than 40 feature silhouettes. She died in 1981 in Germany. “There is also a book to the movie back then (Lotte Reiniger had a lot of contacts within the German creative scenes, which included publishers, artists, and naturally film makers. You know, Bertolt Brecht, Fritz Lang, Hans Sahl aso). Since she had a lot of Jewish friends and was politically active for the left, she and her husband fled 1935, but since no country gave them a permit to stay permanently, they were forced to travel the world during the following years (working on a lot of animated shorts wherever they were). 1943 they were forced to stay in Berlin, and survived the war there. Ironically she was allowed to immigrate to London in 1949. She kept working (there are a lot of short pieces by her, mostly fairy tales) and eventually got Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.” (SwanPride)
“Reiniger required several years, from 1923 to 1926, to make this film. Each frame had to be painstakingly filmed, and 24 frames were needed per second.” (Wikipedia) An interesting piece of information is this movie has homages in two different Disney movies. In Aladdin, the merchant is named Prince Achmed and in The Sword in the Stone, there’s a duel between a witch and a wizard who both transform into various creatures. The original score was composed by German composer Wolfgang Zeller. Reiner created photograms for the orchestras. The film was a huge success. The press praised the film. It first ran for three months in Paris and then at another theater ran for six months. It was shown in almost every country with great success, except Germany.
The film was based on the stories from the 1001 Arabian Nights. The setting is in the Middle East I believe and then is in China. I do not know the exact date or an estimate time frame.
Before watching the Movie:
I’ve seen this film once. I only saw half of it and found it to be boring. When I was younger, there were the Tom and Jerry cartoons that everyone seemed to love, but I hated. I hate when there is no conversation or anything. The only exception is Fantasia, and that’s because it isn’t meant to be a story; more like a work of art. So, I didn’t finish the film. Also, I didn’t really understand what was going on, which added to my frustration of the film. After, learning of some of it’s history and how it has a female director in it (which doesn’t really influence my decision, but I do think it’s pretty cool), and all the work that went into this movie made me appreciate the film. Hopefully, I will like it better knowing all this. I have yet, to read the plot of the film. I want to see if my idea matches up with the actual plot. So, here I go:
My version of the Plot:
The first thing that pops up is the title page and then some German words that I don’t understand. The first character to appear is a tall, skinny, dancing man who can conjure images of dinosaurs. I’m guessing he’s a wizard or magician of some kind. Then he conjures up a horse that can fly. He and the horse fly away…
Next, we come to a scene of a kingdom. The castle looks really familiar and the setting seems to be in a desert, which fits since it’s supposed to be in the Middle East. In comes a howdah, which is a carriage positioned on the back of an elephants or camels. It focuses on the king and the prince. The clowns come along and perform some dances for him. (The flips they do are pretty cool.) He pays them. Then who comes along, the flying horse and the dancing magician. The magician shows off his flying horse and soars over the heads of the king’s guards. They start showing off when the prince looks up, and they remove the flag. The magician hands the flag to the elephant who hands it to the king. Then, the king gives the magician gold, but he will not take the gold. So, the king offers him more gold, and he still won’t take it. The king isn’t sure what to do until the magician comes up with an idea.
He shall marry the princess. He grabs her, but she doesn’t want to leave. He tries to kiss her, but the prince flings him away. The magician comes back towards the prince and beckons him to follow him. He leads him to the flying horse. The prince gets on the flying horse and the horse flies away. Both the princess and the king exclaim with despair, while the horse whisks the prince away. The king tells his guards to take the magician as prisoner.
The horse whisks him to a house. The prince kisses a man. Then there is this really weird scene where the prince and the people in the house are drinking, but they are giving them the drink. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was such a weird scene. Everyone starts dancing and the girl on a tiny stool, starts dancing on it. Her scene is beautifully done. She dances very well. Then he kisses her and tries to have sex with her. She pushes him away. He then kisses the other guy, and then the girl grabs him and kisses him. The guy and girl fight over the prince taking turns kissing him. Then the first guy literally throws the food down and throws the girls across the room, and grabs him and makes-out with him. The second guy starts fighting with the first guy, and then they kiss each other. Then they start fighting each other again with the prince in the middle. Inside of this “fan,” are two “girls/boys?,” and they grab the prince, and start kissing him.
While the other two are fighting, they then realize the prince is gone; and tear down the chandelier. Everyone starts fighting except one girl and the prince who he kisses goodbye, and then runs away. Everybody chases him. (I think he might be in a brothel, now that I think about it.) He then flies away, and lands near an oasis with an antelope drinking water. He hides, because these human/bird things appear. These bird things turn out to be a beautiful woman and her servants. The prince chases her.
This scene is awful. She clearly does not want to go with the Prince, and she begs him not to take her. He takes her anyways. I wonder what is wrong with this prince. The prince takes her swan costume and her, and flies away. Then some German words appear again, but this time it says something China. So, I take it they are in China now. They end up near a tree, while the prince keeps trying to kiss the girl. Finally, we get back to the magician who turns himself into a bat. He escapes the dungeon. The girl is crying, and the prince gives back the swan costume. She stops crying, and they almost kiss when “bat-man” appears. He then changes into a kangaroo, and steals the swan costume. The prince chases him and falls down the hold. The kangaroo leaves the swan costume, and changes back into a magician. He gives the girl a gift.
Back to the prince who is trying to escape when a gigantic snake appears. (This is like a huge snake.) The prince climbs the snake and escapes. The magician steals the girl and flies away on the horse. The prince flies away with the swan costume. The magician takes the girl to a palace and offers her hand in marriage to the king, in exchange for gold. The king accepts the offer. The magician and the prince get in a fight with these weird bat-like creatures. The king is trying to rape the girl. (This poor girl seriously) The magician leaves the prince in a volcano where there is fire gorilla, and some other weird creatures. The fire gorilla and the prince fights; the prince wins and the gorilla kisses him. The fire gorilla forges a helmet, sword, and a shield giving it to the Prince.
Meanwhile, the girl refused to have sex with the king. He was upset, so he forced her to marry one of his servants. His servant is this super short guy, who I question is even fully human. Well, it turns out fire monkey can fly (with no wings, I have no idea how he is flying). The servants drag the princess away. She is literally trying to fight them, but she loses. I think they are dragging her to the bed to have sex with the servant, but the prince reaches the servant’s house, and pushes him. The prince and the girl reunite, and finally kiss. They make-out and then there is this long pause, and some words come up. I think they finally had sex.
The bat-like creatures return and fight the prince. They grab the girl and fly away. The prince flies on one of them until it drops him. He lands on the ground, when he sees a gigantic elephant with razor-sharp teeth, about to eat this man; using his bow he shoots the elephant and saves the man.
I’m not sure exactly if I got this right, but it reminded me of Aladdin. The prince finds the magician, who sends the prince down to retrieve the lamp, in exchange for the princess. (Actually, it turns out it’s not the prince, but the guy the prince saved.) The magician tricks the guy, and pushes him down, but the guy still has the lamp; when a genie appears.
The monkey and the magician fight, transforming into different creatures. Gorilla: Gorilla, Snake, Rooster, some kind of fish thing, and then gorilla Magician: Lion, Scorpion, Vulture, Crocodile?, and then magician. They throw fireballs at each other. The gorilla wins. Then bursting from the volcano comes a bunch of evil animals who want the lamp. They try to sacrifice the girl, but the prince rescues her. The attain the lamp though. The gorilla fights them off and wins the lamp back. After, a long battle, the animals return into the volcano. They say goodbye to the gorilla and return home.
There is a second female who I believe is the princess (Achmed’s sister). She kisses the guy. The prince kisses the other girl. Everyone is happy and they reunite with the king. Everyone is together, and happy. The End
Actual Plot of the Movie:
Taken from The Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse and sends the rider off on a flight to his death. But the prince foils the magician’s plan, and soars headlong into a series of wondrous adventures — joining forces with Aladdin and the Witch of the Fiery Mountains, doing battle with the sorcerer’s army of monsters and demons, and falling in love with the beautiful Princess Peri Banu.
So, I was correct: He is a sorcerer/magician. He does trick Achmed into flying away with the horse. I think I did a pretty good job at getting the plot right, even though I liked their simplified version better.
The Good: The animation is breath-taking. It is gorgeous and my favorite part of the movie. I believe that it could still be considered good for today’s standards. The score is magnificent. It reminds me of Fantasia, and it really goes with the movie. It helps set the tone.
The Bad: This movie is very confusing. I have so many questions after watching this. It might make more sense if I had ever read the story to this or knew German, but I don’t; so it leaves me confused. Why is everyone trying to rape and steal that poor girl? Even the prince, who is supposed to be the hero of the movie, tried to have sex with her and took her without her permission. She begged him not to, but he still did it anyway. If he had left her alone in the first place, not of that stuff would’ve happened to her in the first place. Also, am I to believe that they already fell in love, after him just giving her swan outfit back, even though he stole it in the first place? If they had waited until he saved her a ton of times, the story would be more believable. Also, I dislike Prince Achmed, and since he’s really the only character, besides the magician, with a personality; it makes it hard for me to like the movie. I already went into the whole no-talking thing, which really bothers me. Also, I just found out the “gorilla” is actually the witch, and the guy that was saved by Achmed is Aladdin. That makes the genie scene a lot more clearer.
Overall: Now, I know it must sound like I really hated this movie, but that isn’t true. I thought it was a good movie, especially for its time. The animation is just wonderful. I’ve never seen that type of art before, and I thought it was just so wonderful. I just disliked that I couldn’t really understand what was going on and that I hated the “hero” of the story. Also, some parts can be boring, while some parts can be extremely entertaining. Overall, I’d give the movie a high C+. I do know that people that have seen this movie like it a lot. So, remember this is my personal opinion, and I do recommend to at least watch it once.
You can watch the movie on Youtube or buy it here for $23.99: http://www.milestonefilms.com/products/adventures-of-prince-achmed
I attained my information from:
- SwanPride user
- I do not own the videos or images.
My next movie will be The Tale of the Fox. The first animated film in France in 1930. I have never seen it nor know nothing about this movie. I hope it is in English. If not, please let there be some talking. Anyways, I hoped you liked my review. Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think even if you don’t like it. “Honesty is always the best policy.”