A Woman Director in the History of Animated Film: Lotte Reiniger's Film Aesthetics

A Woman Director in the History of Animated Film: Lotte Reiniger's Film Aesthetics

Yasemin Kılınçarslan (Uşak University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1774-1.ch011


Rapidly spreading computer technologies cause many classical art applications to disappear. One of these is the classic stop motion animation cinema. Animation film director Lotte Reiniger has an important place in the history of cinema both through her personality and films. The avant-garde style of the director puts her in the category of modern artists. Reiniger's technical and stylistic innovations in the art of animation are still important. In this study, the artistic life and film aesthetics of the Lotte Reiniger will be discussed and the elements that make it an auteur method will be examined through her animation films.
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Lotte Reiniger has become a worldwide celebrity with her silhouette films. She is the first woman director who made the first full length silhoutte animation of the world. She is a director of early age of animated cinema and her films represent the aesthetic principles of early age animation. She had examined and applied the Chinese art of silhoutte puppetry techniques. Reiniger was influenced by Melies’s and Paul Wegener’s films and their creative and innovative film aesthetics. She is an important animated cinema figure in the scope of fairy tales from the silent era. All these different features made her one of the leading directors of her era. The political conjuncture of her era inevitably affected her artistic life. The productive and strong relationship with intellectuals and artists of the era have played an important role in building Reiniger’s artistic future.

Before Lotte Reiniger left Nazi Germany and moved to England in November 1935, had been deeply immersed in the cultural and intellectual avant-garde world of pre-World War II Berlin. Among her circle of friends in 1920’s Berlin were such well-known artists as Walther Ruttmann, who contributed to Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, and playwright Bertolt Brecht. The earliest films that Reiniger realized with full creative freedom and responsibility were produced by the Institut für Kulturforschung [Institute for Cultural Research] in Berlin. These early films include Das Ornament des Verliebten Herzens/The Ornament of Hearts in Love (1919), Amor und das Standhafte Liebespaar/Love and the Steadfast Lovers (1920), Der Fliegende Koffer/The Flying Suitcase (1921), and Der Stern von Bethlehem/The Star of Bethlehem (1921)1 The films, which have all these different aesthetic principles have brought the artist to an important position in the history of animated film. The masterful craftsmanship which requires a great deal of handmade, united with an orientalist attitude and opened a new door in the Western cinema art. Her friendship with artists from different perspectives broadened the Reiniger’s vision and allowed her to apply the visual arts of different cultures to her animation films. That's why in Reiniger's films a great visual richness stands out. But, because of the political enviroinment created it’s own facts, Reinger draw his ways acoording to this political conditions of her country.

…Carl Koch and Lotte Reiniger were closely identified with leftist politics (Bertolt Brecht counted them among their good friends) and deplored the rise of Nazism. They immediately tried to leave Germany in 1933, but were not able to get emigration visas into France, England or other European countries. Lotte worked on a Pabst film in France in 1933, but had to return to Germany, where she made six more films, between frequent “vacations” to England, Greece and other places in search of asylum. In 1936, Carl and Lotte resolved to leave Germany for good, even if it meant a transient existence, which it did. Jean Renoir employed Carl in Paris, while Lotte found some backing for silhouette films in England but both had to leave the country where they were every few months and re-enter on a new tourist visa, sometimes only meeting in the terminals at Dover and Calais (Guerin et al, n.d) 2

Lotte Reiniger underlined her disdain with the Hitler regime in an interwiev and she said; -“because I didn’t approve of the whole Hitler-spectacle and the fact that I had many Jewish friends that I know wasn’t supposed to call friends anymore-“ (Schönfeld&Finnan, 2006:187) It was impossible for Lotte Reiniger to be affected by events around her. Her leftist vision has always kept her out of the Hitler regime as a German avangard artist. Besides, Lotte Reiniger’s artistic production has always been forefront of her political identity and struggle. Therefore, she visited different countries and made a lot of animated films there. This active and nomad life of style sustained a productive and creative artistic circle in which she found opportunities to try diffirent artistic techniques in her films.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Silhouette Animation: Silhouette animation is a genre of animated film in which the characters are only visible as black silhouettes.

Illustration: Word of illustration based on French laguage which means that what is visible can be exaggerated or completely depicted in imaginary line.

Puppet Animation: In the puppet animation technique, it is possible to use a wide variety of materials and objects besides the puppet. In this technique, the subject to be moved is photographed one after the other with small changes in each frame.

Aesthetic: The science of artistic creativity, the concept of beauty and beauty in art and life.

Avantgarde: Avantgarde is a person or work that initiates a movement of art and thought, a new view according to its age.

Animation: Editing and transferring individual pictures or still objects to the feeling that they are moving during the display of the film.

Fairy Tale: A children's story about magical and imaginary beings and lands; a fairy story.

Cartoon: It is a kind of art and painting realized by drawing humorously or critically and exaggeratingly of a person, any event or thought.

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