Writer: Richard Mansfield
Producer: Richard Mansfield
Year of release: 2013
Reviewed from: online
Many people still think that the first ever feature-length animated film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but tonto toon fans know that it was actually Lotte Reiniger’s shadow animation The Adventures of Prince Achmed, made in Germany in 1926. (Wikipedia reckons there were two earlier films made in Argentina, now lost.) Richard Mansfield’s extraordinary and poetic Wolfskin owes an obvious debt to Reiniger’s work and indeed is dedicated to her memory.
Whereas Prince Achmed was animated frame by frame, Mansfield’s technique - which he has developed across a number of short films - is more like traditional southeast Asian shadow puppetry with his figures animated in real time using wires. Just occasionally a real 3D object is used when necessary, such as a hand or a bottle. Modern video capabilities enhance this antique technique, providing Mansfield with a depth of field which Reiniger never had.
Having said all of the above, I would be lying if I said that I could actually follow precisely what was going on. Not that I think it matters. This is a film that’s more about imagery than plot. It’s presented silent, as was Prince Achmed (albeit that was more forced on Reiniger by virtue of sound films not having yet been invented) with a pleasing, mellifluous score composed and performed by Anglo-Turkish singer/harpist/therimin-player Ozlem Simsek. Mansfield’s earlier shorts are mostly either music videos or narrated ghost stories, thus he is used to working without dialogue. The latter include versions of Amelia B Edwards' 1864 tale ‘The Phantom Coach’ and Francis Marion Crawford’s 1894 classic ‘The Upper Berth’, both available on the Mansfield’s Mucky Puppets blog.
Mansfield is now expanding his creative work beyond animation and is currently in post on his first live-action feature, Who is Coming aka Owlman, partially inspired by MR James’ classic story ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ (you may recall that written on the whistle in that story is ‘Quis est iste qui uenit’ which the narrator translates as ‘Who is this who is coming?’) [This was eventually released as The Mothman Curse - MJS]. A second live action feature, The Secret Path, is also in production.
MJS rating: A-