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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Composer/Filmmaker Carla Patullo on Lotte Reiniger's "Cinderella" Animation



Composer and filmmaker Carla Patullo's re-edited version of animation artist Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger's "Cinderella" screened at the 2015 Savannah Film Festival in the animation shorts competition. The film is beautifully scored to the images that depict a darker psychological take on the legendary fable. Reiniger was a German film director and pioneer of silhouette animation. Born in 1899, she died in 1981 after having made over 40 films. Patullo's edition breathes new life into captivating archival footage of a lost art.


I interviewed Carla at the Savannah Film Festival.

Can you explain a bit about the animation artist Lotte Reniger and what she did for animation?

Lotte Reiniger is truly a pioneer when it comes to animation. She's credited as an inventor of the multi-plane camera, which was later widely used by Walt Disney. She also created the first feature length animation! It was called The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is the story we know today as Aladdin. She made her first film in 1919 using her unique and magical silhouette technique, and she continued creating lovely and amazing films throughout her life.

How did you come across this archive material? Are there more archives of her work?

While I was researching the Brothers Grimm and other fairy tales for a different project, I came across a short video of Lotte's, and I was instantly intrigued. And yes, her work is pretty well archived. Once you start looking, you can find her films all over the place. I have a great book published by a German museum filled with stills of her beautiful silhouettes.

How did you come up with the idea to sync your music to this film?

Lotte's version of Cinderella really spoke to me at the time. Because Lotte was inspired by ballet, I was quickly able to identify a pulse and sense of rhythm to the movement. Being a film composer, I thought that composing music to her silent film would be a way for me to pay tribute to her, and perhaps to evoke underlying emotions and drama in her storytelling.

Do you feel this animation tells the story of Cinderella in a different way than ever? If so, how?

Along with the ballet, Lotte was also inspired by the ancient art of shadow puppetry, so I researched that tradition, which is an art form mostly performed in Asian countries. This led me to pursue other concepts of shadow and to identify to the story through the Jungian idea of shadow psychology. I think this version of Cinderella is more about self-discovery and assertion, and each character represents some aspect of each of us. Instead of identifying with Cinderella alone, we are meant to see shadows of ourselves in the Prince, and even in the Evil Step-Mother.

You use a Jungian quote on your site. Do you want to discuss how you think Cinderella is a story of psychology as well?

Yes, it was a big part of how I understood the story. I read a lot about Carl Jung and his work in shadow psychology, and the overlap between his shadow theory, fairy tales, and Lotte's imagery was so strong, it was like someone slapped me across the face! I think in Lotte's version of the film, we are able to relate to all of shadows like I mentioned above. At the beginning of the film, I used Carl Jung's quote “To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light.” I think Jung was saying that by recognizing and confronting our repressed selves, we are able to live up to a better version of ourselves. The story of Cinderella is loaded with repression, and as soon as you recognize yourself as all three characters (Cinderella, the Prince, and the Evil Step-Mother), you can see the story that you can either save yourself or keep yourself locked in the basement. Which shadow of yourself will conquer the other?

You recently screened your film in Savannah at the film festival. How was that experience?

I had an awesome time at the Savannah Film Festival! They do a great job showcasing all of the films in the best way possible. The theaters were beautiful and I loved that the festival is connected to SCAD--the students at the screenings brought a young and creative presence.

How have audiences reacted to your film?

Most of the time people haven't heard of or seen Lotte's work, but they are so impressed by her animation style. Many people, especially women, are very eager to hear her story, which often leads to a fun conversation about other female pioneers. People ask if I have heard of so and so, some amazing woman who discovered this or who contributed to that, and it's exciting to share so many great stories. It makes me very happy not only to have people recognize Lotte’s work for how wonderful it is, but also to recognize her as an inventor and a major contributor to the film world!

What will you work on next?

I have a few projects brewing at the moment. I'm composing music for a few different films, but I'm also producing two new short films that are very close to my heart. One of them is a documentary inspired by my mother--I'm still discovering where exactly this one takes me. And the other is an animated portrait of Lotte Reiniger. As you can see, I am fascinated with the woman, and I've come across some great archival material. I'm working on both of these projects simultaneously, and hopefully, they'll land in mid to late 2016.


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