The earliest surviving animated, feature-length film, made in Germany by pioneer Lotte Reiniger. Though there were two others before produced in Argentina they are considered lost and they didn’t use “shadow puppets” painstakingly edited frame-by-frame like this movie, as this technique was produced by Reiniger herself. What comes from it is something that is a style all its own and worth watching if only for its animation, but it also tells a story that is very unique and made all the more interesting by in the way its presented.
Prince Achmed is a man being tempted by a demon who is able to change forms. The prince runs from him but the demon comes around at every turn, finding ways to tempt and taunt him wherever he goes. It feels a bit like he’s travelling through the 1,001 Arabian Nights, even going so far as meeting Aladdin as this demon stays in pursuit. Still, very enjoyable and most of the animation is pantomimed with very little intertitles, making it seem more modern than it should considering how early into animation we were at the time.
The use of shadows makes it very unique, and it brings out the art very well and I can honestly say I haven’t seen animation quite like it anywhere else, even in the modern day. This movie was almost lost as well, that is until a nitrate of the film was found and painstakingly restored in 1999. I have to give everyone kudos for that, as there are so many lost early films, it’s great when one is able to be brought back to life.
I also have to compliment the score. It’s not the score from the original showing of the film, but it works perfectly for every scene and sounds more like classical music than anything else, which reminds me of Fantasia. Having a scene that’s reminiscent of the Night on Bald Mountain sequence helps.
Why you should watch it before you die: Aside from it being the earliest feature-length animated film, it’s also something that was pioneering animated movies for the next 90 odd years. It’s unique in its own right and is definitely worth its 1 hour 10 minute runtime. Recommended, but doubly recommended if you’re interested in animation in any regard.
+7.5: an enjoyable and unique experience
+1: Beautifully animated
+1: Wonderfully scored
+0.5: Bonus half-point for coming back from the dead