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  • Writer's picture Gary Bills


Furthermore, a contemporary and admirer of Reiniger, the film theorist Rudolf Arnheim, believed that all children’s films should make use of the silhouette technique, because the imagination of a child could “make a monster more frightening, an exploit more daring; a maiden more beautiful...” when these images were seem as silhouettes. But why should this be so?

The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, when speaking of shadows, seemed to take an opposite position to that of Plato, for he saw shadows as a way to self-knowledge. Jung wrote: “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”

Concerning the point made by Keeler and others, about the strange power of a black-and-white silhouette, it should be pointed out that Reiniger herself experimented with colour, most notably, perhaps, in her 1926 full-length fairy-tale, “The Adventures of Prince Achmed". And concerning Balasz’s claim that the black-and-white silhouette was superior to a literary text, it should also be pointed out that Papageno, for instance, is more of a balletic celebration of Mozart’s music from The Magic Flute, rather than a literary text; although songs, of course, have words.

What, then, is the experience today of viewing a Reiniger masterpiece, such as Papageno, stage by stage?

In the opening credits, we see the shape of the boyish bird-catcher, Papageno. As soon as the credits end, out he steps, dancing, in perfect time to Mozart’s jaunty music. Papageno is a slight, boyish figure with a slight erotic charge in that he appears to be naked - with the exception of a feather headdress and a skimpy skirt of feathers. The styling of Papageno in this way is down to Reiniger, who has not followed traditional representations of character to make her representation of Papageno. The original Papageno was not a balletic bird-boy, but a feathered tenor.

With Reiniger, his anatomical shape is well-drawn, as if she has used a life model. The muscles of his calves, as he makes his delicate steps, are well-defined. His head is tilted back a little, proudly, suggesting self-confidence: much as the music exudes self-confidence. It is a miracle of the stop-motion technique, and Reiniger used a sketched “shooting book” as a guide to make sure that the movements of her figure matched the music precisely. This is a clue as to why Reiniger’s Papageno is so singular, compared with other, older representations. Cont - p3.

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