In 1923 Lotte Reiniger began production on her animated feature film The Adventures of Prince Achmed/Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, which was finally released in 1926. It has often been noted that her friend and collaborator Walter Ruttman is said to have been upset by the fact that this film apparently had nothing to do with the year 1923, in what was a very challenging time in Germany economically and politically. 2 This is the year that saw the Munich Putsch, France and Belgium’s occupation of the Ruhr, and hyperinflation; the latter a result of the ill-fated decision taken by the Weimar government to print more money, the aim of which was to solve the profound issues facing the German economy following the General Strike. As Esther Leslie has asked “What did the dancing shadows, trapped in a flat world of genies and demons, caught only with sidelong glances, have to do with the spectacular collapse of the German economy in the epoch of hyperinflation?” 3 Ruttman’s view, one imagines, was that Reiniger’s film had nothing to do with the context that they were living in. For him, perhaps, it was pure fantasy, simply an animated fairy tale so far removed from reality that not a trace of Prince Achmed’s context 110can be found within the fabric of the film. Leslie disagrees with Ruttman’s view, arguing:
this animation had everything to do with the crisis years, representing, in graphic form, a fading out of all life’s color, a distancing from the graspable three-dimensionality of reality, the world or life as bare, a shadow of its former self. 4Perhaps the 2D flatness of this film, alongside her other films, and its world of shadows, shows us more about Germany at the time than is at first apparent—as Leslie says, it lays the world bare and we can see the cracks. This chapter seeks to situate both Reiniger as a filmmaker, and her landmark film, Prince Achmed, within the context of Germany at the time of the film’s production and release. This chapter will argue that the film can be understood as a liminal or “in-between” work, making it impossible to categorize in the traditional canons of art and culture of the Weimar period. This difficulty is a result of the fact that the film is both fantasy and animation.