Lubitsch – “Die Puppe”

I had the pleasure the other day of re-discovering a silent film made by Ernst Lubitsch – director of such classics as “The Shop Around The Corner”, “Ninotchka” and “To Be Or Not To Be”. This gem was made in 1919 and is called “Die Puppe” – which is pretty much a re-telling of the same tale used in the ballet “Coppelia”, where a toy maker creates a beautiful doll which comes to life.

The sets are painted cut-outs – in a sort of cross between “Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari” and our original Ruffus episodes (see more blather below). In this film The Lubitsch Touch abounds – and I love the opening with Lubitsch himself on camera setting the stage with an over-sized toy theatre.

I mentioned earlier a tenuous link to our own Ruffus Project.

Here’s the behind-the-scenes video we made for our Ruffus Christmas Carol which shows the use of painted cut-outs in our original Ruffus episodes – along with a bit of film history about Disney and the Fleischer Bros. I may re-cut all this and expand it, adding clips from Caligari and Die Puppen and other productions to showcase this really neat take on visual narrative that always crops up now and again. Like a traditional puppet stage (or even the reveal of a stage set environment – ie. the opening scene of Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V” or the 2012 production of “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley) it creates a metaphorical construct which provides distance for the audience and at the same time this allows them to immerse themselves more deeply with the characters and the narrative.

Hmmm. Another side project to add to the list. Ah well.


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