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The renaissance of the silhouette film

In recent years silhouette film has experienced another boom. Malaysian curator, Hassan Muthalib, traces current trends regarding silhouette film in Asia, America and Europe in his programme series, "Journeying with Shadows". We will be presenting a retrospective in co-operation with the DEFA Foundation and the DIAF about the East German silhouette filmmaker, Bruno Böttge (1925 – 1981) whose work was in the spirit of Lotte Reiniger. French star director, Michel Ocelot will be providing an insight into his stereoscopic film "Les contes de la nuit" (Tales of the night) in a workshop.

Living shadows – silhouette films by Bruno J. Böttge

In 1973, Lotte Reiniger, the great master of silhouette animation sent a letter from Great Britain to Bruno Böttge (1925-81), director and co-founder of the DEFA studios for animated film in Dresden: "Dear Mr. Böttge, [I] have always been very moved by the respect you show when you mention me! I, for my part, never miss the opportunity, when asked if I have found an art successor to my work, to answer proudly: Yes, certainly, Mr. Bruno Böttge in Dresden."


Just like Lotte Reiniger, Bruno Böttge was also inspired by the art of silhouette puppetry as a child. In his reply, he assured her: "You can be sure that I do my very best not to shame my master". He did not only study Lotte Reiniger’s films for his own implementation of this film technique. From 1951 he began to experiment in order to perfect his conceptions of the potential of silhouette film. After a lot of persuasion in the form of numerous letters to the studio management he was able to establish this form of animation, often seen as idiosyncratic, in the DEFA’s animation landscape.


In his 50 films for the DEFA studio for animated film, he animated fairytales (DIE GESCHENKE DES GRAUMÄNNCHENS, 1957 was one of his greatest successes – also at an international level) and abstract stories (PÜNKTCHEN, 1964), as well as parables of altogether human behaviour (e.g. ENT- ODER WEDER, 1964 or LIEBE UND COMPUTER, 1971) and official work for the state propaganda of the DDR (30. JAHRESTAG DER BEFREIUNG VOM FASCHISMUS, 1974 or ES BLÜHEN DIE ROTEN NELKEN, 1976). Furthermore he experimented with the varied potential of silhouette animation in combination with cut-out animation.


The DEFA Foundation and the German Institute for Animated Film will present two programmes for adults and young people with films from Bruno Böttge, one of the DEFA’s important animation artists.


Anja Ellenberger

  • Wed, 09.05. / 3 PM, Metropol 3: Retrospective Bruno Böttge 1
  • Wed, 09.05. / 5 PM, Metropol 3: Retrospective Bruno Böttge 2


Tradition & Innovation in Silhouette Animation
curated by Hassan Muthalib

This programme of animation and live action films that make use of silhouettes pays homage to the inspired vision and works of Lotte Reiniger and her silhouette film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, that was inspired by Chinese shadow play. Her works have inspired today’s animation filmmakers to break boundaries and be innovative in using styles and techniques that Reiniger herself could never have envisaged in her wildest dreams but who would, nevertheless, have embraced it wholeheartedly.


Programme 1 begins this journey of animated shadows and images that then progress to animated shadow play puppets. Traditionally-animated and digitally-finished works complete the programme, showcasing the 'tradigital' nature of silhouette animation today. The programme is rounded up with a short that has been nominated for an Academy Award, proving that the artform still remains relevant and is timeless.

Programme 2 comprises of performances in real-time of silhouettes made by the human body, 'animated' in fascinating ways by masters of manipulation and dance. Performance/installation works depict an 'interactive environment' that reflect the present-day scenario where technology allows this to happen. The final film proves that an artwork can truly be personal. The animator performs in her own film in silhouette, interacting effortlessly with her animated elements.

Programme 3 is the screening of excerpts from three shadow play documentaries showcasing the shadow play art form. The director, Werner Nekes, will discuss his journey around the world documenting shadow play performances, and in particular, talk of those from China, India and Bali, Indonesia.

  • Mi., 09.05. / 21 Uhr, Metropol 3: Programm 1
  • Do., 10.05. / 21 Uhr, Gloria 2: Programm 2
  • Fr., 11.05. / 21 Uhr, Metropol 3: Programm 3

Lotte Reiniger - Dance of the shadows

It is not Walt Disney – as is often claimed – whom we have to thank for the first feature-length animated film in history, but the German film artist Lotte Reiniger. In 1926 this virtuoso of the art of silhouette film worked her magic and brought "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" to the silent film screen. She had invented a new kind of artistic film somewhere between the aestheticism of Jugendstil, expressionism and magical fairytales. Whilst her husband, Carl Koch, perfected the multiplane camera and the animation table, Lotte Reiniger developed one figure after another and filmed their movements with extreme patience. The sixty minute documentary "Lotte Reiniger – Dance of the shadows" shows the topicality of Reiniger who even today has an inspiring effect on the art of young animation filmmakers worldwide. Film artists such as Michel Ocelot and Hannes Rall comment on the effects of her work which thanks to the animation of Ben Hibons reaches into the magical world of Harry Potter. The film superimposes the artist's own life experience on to her work and contains newly discovered material which shows Lotte Reiniger working on her last film in Canada. The film was made at the Department for Film and Television Science at the Institute of Media Studies, Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen. Lecturers and students studying for a master’s, supported by a professional film team and the town museum of Tübingen, worked together on an ambitious project which focused on the re-discovery of an important film artist.

Direction: Susanne Marschall, Rada Bieberstein, Kurt Schneider
Country: Germany
Production year: 2012
Format: Full HD
Presentation medium: Blu-ray
Length: 60 minutes
Cinematography: Jens Huerkamp
Editing: Walter Freund Music: Pierre Oser
Producer: Christian Drewing
Production: Eikon Südwest
Sponsored by the State of Baden-Württemberg and the MFG Baden Württemberg

  • Sat, 12.05. / 5 PM, Cinema