Movie of the Week #12

(The Idea)
(Berthold Bartosch; 1930-1932)

You might not think it true, but film adaptations of so-called Graphic Novels . . . which some may avow is just a modish, jumped-up substitute for the term Comic Book . . . are not without precedent. Beginning in 1930, to cite the most extraordinary case, the animator Berthold Bartosch spent the better part of two years directly adapting L'Idée, a 1920 volume by Belgian graphic artist Frans Masereel, into one of the most poignant expressions in all animated film. It is our offering today.

Not the first film to be drawn from one of his 'novels in woodcut' (Walter Ruttmann had taken much of the visual inspiration of his film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt from Masereel's 1925 book, Die Stadt), Masereel had been connected with the project in the beginning, but soon withdrew, reportedly after getting a taste of how painstaking and protracted the creation was going to be. As an artist committed to the spirit, if not exactly the forms of Anarchist social belief, Masereel (I'm guessing) felt he had not the time to stand around and watch Bartosch fuss with layer after layer of transparent paper and glass plates and common soap and cardboard; forging the more than 40,000 separate, exquisite images that breathed abundant life and lyric into Masereel's already remarkable series of woodcuts. He no doubt wanted immediate action (or its closest equivalent), but Bartosch was more intent on pouring into the work everything he had . . . from his formal training as an architect to his apprenticeship in film under Lotte Reiniger in the 1920s . . . as if he somehow knew in advance that it would be the only film bearing his name that would survive him.

Which, sadly, is exactly what it is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool. The soundtrack was written by Arthur Honegger and features "a new instrument of musical waves: the Martenot". This later came to be called the Ondes Martenot, and is one of the first electronic musical instruments.