REPORTER, December 2008, pp. 59-60.
The master trick puppeteer… by Nikita Banerjee
Twenty-eight-year old Ladislas Starewitch, a graphic artist, sat for many hours under lights to manipulate intricate puppets. These puppets were live beetles and Starewitch was trying to shoot a battle scene with the insects. However, this turned out to be a time consuming and tedious process. The beetles would not fight when the lights shone on them. Finally, a beetle died and Starewitch decided to use a different approach to film the battle scene.
different approach he used was to create trick animals or puppets to film the
sequence. This was in the year 1910. And Starewitch introduced the style of
stop-motion puppet animation to
Starewitch was born in
1911, Starewitch moved to
the studio, Starewitch was involved with stop-motion photography and
cinematography. At this time, he began to think of ways to combine entomology
and filmmaking. This thought led to his experiments with puppets and resulted in
The Beautiful Lukanida, (1911).
Although stop-motion animation was done in
Most of his films were reflections of his eastern European heritage. The best example of this was the film, The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912). The story of the film revolves around the dull lives of Mr. and Mrs. Beetle. However, Mr. Beetle cheats on his wife when he meets a lovely Dragonfly. The beetle steals the dragonfly away from her lover, Mr. Grasshopper. The Grasshopper, being a cameraman, begins his plot of revenge by filming Mr. Beetle's affair with the Dragonfly. However, Mr. Beetle happens to catch his wife at home with another insect, the artist. Mr. Beetle feigns to throws a fit, smashes things in the house and gets rough with Mrs. Beetle. Eventually he forgives her, and takes her to a movie. However, the projectionist at the theater is Mr. Grasshopper, who runs the footage he has shot of Mr. Beetle and Miss Dragonfly. The cheering, insect audience loves this spontaneous slice of life, but Mrs. Beetle chases her husband straight through the movie screen and out of the theater.
A nine year old Irene acted in this film.
1950, the film Fern Flower was
awarded the first prize for the Best
Animated Film at the XI Children’s Film Festival in
film, Voice of the Nightingale(1923) is another acclaimed film by Starewitch. In
the film, a young Nina Star, discovers a Nightingale accidentally trapped in a
cage meant for a mouse. The girl decides to keep the Nightingale as a pet and
puts it in a birdcage to hang beside her bedroom window. Later, through her
dreams the girls realizes that animals are not playthings and therefore, lets
the Nightingale go. Starewitch was awarded the Hugo Riesenfeld’s Medal as The
Most Novel Short Story Subject In Motion Picture in the United States of America
Starewitch’s films were meant for children they appealed to all age groups.
The subject matter of his films was simple and yet profound. The onset of sound
and colour in films upset the puppet animator’s film making process. It had
become difficult for him to find financers for his films. But Starewitch
continued making films. In 1947, his film Zanzabelle was awarded the Gold Medal
Starewitch had a huge body of work in animation. Only a few films were screened
complete restoration of his films was undertaken by François Martin and Léona
Béatice Martin-Starewitch who is grand daughter. They began the restoration
work in 1980 and it was only completed recently in 2008. Fifty films made by
Ladislav Starewitch have been restored now and from 1979,his family has been
responsible for showcasing his works throughout the world. Most recently in
November 2008, Starewitch’s films and puppets were screened in
Font & Pixel Media Pvt. Ltd.
Shubdam Centre “A” CHS,
Andheri (E), Mumbai 400 099,
Tel : 91 22 28261785, 91 22 28268929
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