I always finds it exhilarating to listen to a film enthusiast talking about a particular cinematic passion, be it Steve Mayhew sharing his extensive knowledge of the films of John Ford or Holly Buckley spreading the lo-o-o-ve for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Just listening to them makes me want to throw caution to the winds, run out into a lightning storm while holding up a metal rod, scream ‘hallelujah’, and see what all the fuss is about.
As of last night, I can add the German director Lotte Reiniger, a pioneer of silhouette animation, to the list of talented people I want to learn more about. And in this case, it was down to Edith Pieperhoff of the Galway Film Society -- and herself an animator and authority on all things Reiniger.
Silent Cinema Galway was having a showing of the earliest known full-length animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, from 1926; and Edith gave a spirited and lively introduction to both the film and Lotte Reiniger’s life in general.
Now the truth is that while I’m as susceptible to the charms of The Jungle Book, Toy Story or Felix the Cat Does Dallas as the next guy, I really only have a passing interest in animation. Indeed, I almost gave this one a pass.
If I had, what a very special evening I would have missed out on. For what a treat this proved to be when seen on a large screen and with the superb musical accompaniment of pianist Augustina Taborda. ‘Awesome’ is a ridiculously overused word that would normally set my teeth on edge, but Prince Achmed fully earns such a description. This loose retelling of several stories from One Thousand and One Nights is a purely magical work of Art (and I don’t say that lightly) where one could almost freeze every single frame just in order to study the intricacy of the compositions and the extraordinary attention to detail.
And just on a personal note: in nearly sixty years of cinema-going, I sometimes think that I’ve seen it all; but the sequence which takes place around the magic lake left me reverting to an almost childlike sense of wonder. That – from a film that is almost a century old – is quite something.
I don’t know if another show is planned, but I would definitely be there. And if you were unfortunate enough to miss out on this unique cinematic experience, then can I recommend that you do your best to attend next time?
I really don’t think that you’ll regret it.