The Star of Bethlehem

Christmas Classic

Lotte Reiniger is famous for the utterly charming animations she made using paper silhouettes that were painstakingly cut, mounted with articulations and motioned puppet-like by hand. Many of the artifacts used in her animations are being conserved and archived by the BFI, who, rather excitingly, have introduced a BFI Player service for the UK. I'm very tempted, but I read the app isn't quite tickety-boo right now. I will continue with Curzon Home Cinema and watch the other space with anticipation. With film viewing options like this, it was an easy decision to hand back the TV license and not have to suffer the narrow worldview of the BBC and the tripe they are broadcasting in the name of public service.

One of Lotte Reiniger's earliest films is The Star of Bethlehem, which she first produced with her husband Carl Koch when they were living in Berlin in 1921. A colour version was later produced in England in 1956, which included the Gothic devils below (subsequently cut from the American release).

The Lotte Reiniger animations in the BFI archive have been restored and digitised. What great work the BFI have done. In 2008, they released Lotte Reiniger - The Fairy Tale Films as a two-DVD collection that features the delightful fairy tale animations Lotte produced from 1922 to 1961.

In 2013, the BFI released in high definition Lotte's The Adventures of Prince Achmed from 1926, which is based on the stories of One Thousand and One Nights and is the oldest feature-length animation in existence. Take that Disney. The 1956 version of The Star of Bethlehem  is included as one of a number of extras on the DVD.

Gather your folk, young and old, crack open the mince pies, and enjoy a snippet of the BFI's restored The Star of Bethlehem below, which features the lovely original soundtrack with Christmas carols sung by the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus.

In order to guarantee family-friendly viewing on Christmas day, even if it's just the background to unwrapping presents, drinking eggnog and so forth, you'd set a suitable mood with the gentle and enchanting work of Lotte Reiniger.


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