L’Idée (The Idea) 1932
Remaining a cornerstone of inspiration for my work since I first viewed it – this animated short clocks in at just over twenty-five minutes of visionary mastery. I discovered it on VHS tape around 2002, its case tucked away in a drawer of other forgotten experimental cinema at a campus library. I literally had to dust the tape off before putting it in my player. I am happy to share my recent discovery that this all too frequently unknown gem has finally made the upload to YouTube – see link at bottom of post. You should know what started out as a collaborative project between Franz Masereel, the content’s originator, and Bertold Bartosch, a master animator, quickly fell upon the lone shoulders of Bartosch once the enormity of work involved became apparent to Masereel. Do yourself a favor and view this groundbreaking work. Considered the first serious, poetic, tragic work in animation, this film not only broke new ground in visual achievement but it is also believed to be first film ever to employ an electronic musical instrument, the ondes Martenot, in a score. In Arthur Honegger’s accompanying score, notes from this instrument announce the appearance of the film’s heroine – a nude female figure representing an artist’s idea.
The film opens as an artist sends his abstract idea out into the world. Symbolized as a nude woman, his artistic conception is rejected and exploited by the ruling powers of business, religion and the military. The film traces this story – sound familiar right? Archetypal in storyline, this film’s presence resonates just as equally through its unique animation. It will not soon be forgotten once viewed. The visual establishment of mood is nothing short of hauntingly hypnotic. Shadows abound in a cityscape far too eager to gain control over a fresh new spark of light, as is the idea. Bartosch achieved such visual nuances by composing the film’s characters and backdrops from several layers of different types of paper, from semi-transparent to thick cardboard. Special effects like halos, smoke and fog were made with black soap lather spread on glass plates and lit from behind. Shooting directly through at times up to eighteen planes of glass housing various scene elements, the resulting depth is nothing short of phenomenal. Faithfully true to the visual aesthetic established by Franz Masereel’s original woodblock prints this film most certainly is, but there is still no question in the ownership commanded by Bertold Bartosch’s adaptation.
Enjoy and have a good life, but stay true to yourself!