Harry Potter and the Legend of Lotte Reiniger

I just returned from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1 – there’s another one to come, apparently). The sole high point in all the predictable cinematography was the charming ‘Legend of the Three Brothers’, an animated fairy tale inserted half-way through the film. The gorgeous, fantastical lines, silhouette aesthetic, faintly orientalist motifs and subtle shadings were a beautiful echo of the Weimar animator Lotte Reiniger, and her 1926 Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed’. Reiniger used stop-motion and real cut-outs to produce her film, without benefit of the CGI available to Warner Bros.

I haven’t been able to find any legal screenshots of the ‘Legend of the Three Brothers’ online, and legally shareable screenshots from Reiniger’s work are hard to come by, too. Here’s one shot to give you an idea of the beautiful complexity of her silhouettes, uploaded at drnorth.wordpress.com:

I’m not sure whether Reiniger’s influence was credited at the end of ‘Harry Potter’, but it’s wonderful to see a more unusual aspect of Weimar film – and one created by a woman – influencing today’s fantasy epics. Harry Potter’s Ministry for Magic is a shiny dystopia not unlike the underworld in Lang’s Metropolis, but the Reiniger citation is far more original and enchanting, for my money.

Reiniger always seems to merit a mention in histories of Weimar film, but there’s little written about her in depth. Christiane Schönfeld’s ‘Lotte Reiniger and the Art of Animation’ in Schönfeld, Christiane (ed. and preface); Finnan, Carmel (ed.) Practicing Modernity: Female Creativity in the Weimar Republic. (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006), pp. 171-90 seems as good a place to start as any.

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