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The Good, the Weird, and the German: Animation showcase seeks to expand your mind with refined whimsy

by Sofya Levina / Beacon Staff • September 15, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

Elegant cardboard cutouts sway to string melodies in Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film emThe Adventures of Prince Ahmed/em, one the earliest pieces of German animation.

Eighty years later, Berlin-based animators Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, and Tom Weber created em458NM/em, a futuristic CGI tale about two cyborg snails falling in love and facing death at the claw of a mechanical fowl.

Through decades of innovation and development, the perplexing sophistication of German animation has been persistent. Tuesday, the Department of Visual and Media Arts and the Goethe-Institut plan to celebrate the nation’s animation with Animation Expanded: A Talk with Curator Ulrich Wegenast.

The event, which will be held in the Bright Family Screening Room of the Paramount Theater, will focus on the progression of the genre over the past 100 years, and feature screenings of several works — many of which may never see commercial release in the United States.

a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/458nm.jpgimg class=aligncenter size-full wp-image-3813446 title=458nm src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/458nm.jpg alt= width=300 height=137 //a

Wegenast is slated to cover topics ranging from Hitler’s attempt to outdo Walt Disney during World War II to the upcoming DVD release of his own 6-part anthology, emDie Geschichte des deutschen Animationsfilms/em (The History of German Animated Film).

The Goethe-Institut, an organization founded in the aftermath of the Second World War to improve Germany’s image and promote its culture, has made Wegenast a trusted advisor on all questions relating to animation. He serves as the artistic director of the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film, which views and judges over 1,500 film entries yearly.

“When I first met him, he was still much younger and my feeling was, ‘Wow!’ This was somebody who knows so much about the history of animated films,” said Detlef Gericke-Schönhagen, the director of the Goethe-Institut in Boston. “I could listen to him for hours.”

Though likely unfamiliar to those not devoted to animation, the German animator has left a mark in the global arena: In 1989, Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein won an Oscar for their short emBalance/em, which will be shown in part during Tuesday’s event.

[caption id=attachment_3813448 align=aligncenter width=300 caption=Lotte Reomoger#39;s movies are some of the first animated feature-length films in existence. Above, one of his trademark cutouts dances in an adaptation of Carmen.                                  Photo courtesy of absolut Medien GmbH www.absolutmedien.de]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Carmen-1.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813448 title=Carmen-1 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Carmen-1.jpg alt= width=300 height=223 //a[/caption]

In an infinitely blue abyss, five men atop a teetering platform discover a mysterious musical box. A philosophical dance of equilibrium follows as each tries to shift the weight of the board so the chest will slide his way — each willing to throw the others into the unknown for possession of the object.

“These films are very universal. Whether you are German or American, you can relate to them, very precisely, in a short period of time,” said Karin Oehlenschläger, program curator at the Goethe-Institut in Boston.  “Most of the situations you will be familiar with. This is just a new take on it.”

Sophomore visual and media arts major Andrew Hawryluk said he expects the program to offer the same level of imagination he regularly sees in animation.

“It can be anything,” said Hawryluk, who has a concentration in animation and motion media. “You can do things that aren’t real, and you can really convince somebody that it is.”

strongAnimation Expanded takes place Tuesday, September 20 at 7 p.m. in the Bright Family Screening Room. Attendance is free for Emerson students./strong

emLevina can be reached at sofya_levina@emerson.edu/em

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