|Animagica | Amiina with the films of Lotte Reiniger|
|Written by Amy Welsh|
|Monday, 07 March 2011 12:21|
Having recently sat through a theatrical experience that was negatively impacted by inattentive and talkative young audience members, I approached the Perth International Arts Festival’s (PIAF) family event Animagica somewhat tentatively. It is to the credit of Lotte Reiniger’s fantastical and humourous shadow animation, scored with wondrous ethereality and magic by Icelandic music troupe Amiina, that we all managed to escape spellbound, transported and for the most part, relatively unscathed.
Lotte Reiniger is an early Twentieth Century animator, known for her extensive collection of film animations inspired by Chinese shadow puppetry. They are black and white animations, with varying shades of grey for the background. Her animation is richly detailed and humourous with characters and worlds rendered in sharp angles and delicate shapes. In Animagica, three of Reiniger’s films, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp are presented without their original film soundtrack, but with new live scores by the contemporary Icelandic band Amiina.
Amiina is known for their minimalistic or ‘ambient’ style. To create their soundtrack, the members of the band present, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Magnús Trygvason Eliassen and Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir utilised instruments like violin, table harp, glockenspiel, call bells and saw, in synchronisation with synthesized music.
The first piece Cinderella was perhaps my favourite of the three films presented. The atmospheric composition by Amiina perfectly suited the delightful animation, which was in places, quite darkly funny and shocking. Reiniger’s animation adhered very closely to the Grimm Brother’s version of the fairy tale, and we are treated to the delightful sight of the Step-Sister cutting half her foot off in order to fit the glass slipper. With morbid attention to detail by Reiniger we see her being carried away by the Prince, still bleeding, only to be returned to her the Step-Mother unconscious, once the Prince has realised the error of his decision. Through very subtle shifts in style and composition, Amiina were able to depict all the varying facets of this story, and completely captured the audience from the beginning. It was wonderful.
The second piece Sleeping Beauty didn’t quite work as well. With a darker and more haunting story, Amiina’s composition was scratchier, harsher, and seemed to play in more minor music realms. Whilst this worked brilliantly in representing the Evil Fairy, her vengeful plans and the fear in the kingdom, the scarier mood and music seemed to disquiet some of the younger audience members. They fidgeted more than in Cinderella, were restless and some had to be taken from the theatre. Overall, this was a quieter, harsher piece, which didn’t sit as well. It was still magical, but because the younger crowd weren’t as captivated, I found it harder to be totally captivated and immersed also.
The third and final piece, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp managed to re-engage the audience with a slightly more up-tempo and exotic composition. It wasn’t quite as ethereal in feel and mood as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, featuring some of the heavier and wooden instruments in the scoring. Essentially, it had a more grounded and earthy feel, which perfectly suited Reiniger’s animation. However, one major criticism was that the film was darker, and at times you couldn’t see what was happening on the screen.
Overall, what I liked the most about Animagica was its simple demonstration of the power of music to create mood, atmosphere and meaning. This wasn’t a loud, bombastic filmic score filled with ringing brass and crashing drums. This was the simple, minimalist music of violins, delicate glockenspiels, ringing glasses and a bowed saw. Yet it still managed to transport and move the audience equal with any composition written by John Williams or Hans Zimmer. It matched perfectly with Reiniger’s delicate and fragile animation, and together the effect was (almost) total bewitching immersion in these classic fairy tales.
2011 Perth International Arts Festival
Amiina with the films of Lotte Reiniger
Venue: Octagon Theatre, The University of UWA
Date: Sun 6 March 2011
Duration: 1hr no interval
Tickets: Standard $24.50
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