Animation | 1930 | Sound | B/W
Bizet's opera 'Carmen' condensed into ten minutes of animation featuring paper cut puppets by Lotte Reiniger and extracts from the original score.
A proscenium stage bound by Corinthian columns, an arch and lavish stage curtains; under it is written 'SILHOUETTEN -'; fairground music like of the Carmen by Bizet. The curtain rises: 'Carmen' appears under the arch. Credits.
Carmen's profile as she leans on the edge of a balcony, with the town of Seville in the background, smoking and blowing thin smoke rings upwards; she wears a crown/tiara, bangles and tassels and has mussed hair; the sound of a trumpet heralds the arrival of the soldiers' guard, making Carmen bend over and look downstairs.
On the verandah a floor below, three girls wearing crowns/tiaras, with neater hair, appear one by one, looking down and waving; plants like miniature palm trees in vases on the balustrade. Carmen leans over, waving: she vaults onto the edge of the balcony, then drops lightly and gracefully downwards. She skips onto the verandah downstairs, pushing the three girls aside, and trots down the side of the roof tiles, onto the next roof, onto a bridge/walkway/verandah with a rooftop arbour, and looks down: under the arch pass the soldiers' guard, led by Don José, holding his sword upright; Carmen vaults over the railing and onto the street.
José calls his contingent, arranged in descending order of height, to a halt; they salute; Carmen watches, hand over her mouth, from a perch nearby.
Carmen adjusts her crown with a flourish, stands poised with a hand on her hip and another in the air, like a flamenco dancer. The owners of an outdoor restaurant, one stout and one thin, bow to José, and motion him into a chair at a table in the square; Carmen approaches, hands on her hips, as he sits down.
Carmen dances in the square behind the portly owner; he turns, sees her and puts a stool out for her; Carmen hops gracefully onto it, lifts the hem of her skirt in a sort of curtsey. She dances on the slightly wobbling stool, seductively. José drinks, leans forward, hardly taking his eyes off her; Carmen draws herself along the table on her knees, rises fluidly and begins dancing on the table such that only her nimble bangled legs, feet and skirt are seen; José watches, mesmerised, looks down her legs and runs his eyes up to her face, craning his neck, his drink still on the table.
Carmen's entire profile dancing on the table with more abandon; she knocks over the other cup which is caught by the portly owner behind her, also gazing; José grows more intrigued, his posture moving from one of calculated restraint to an open display of interest and attraction as he gazes upwards; Carmen ends on one knee in a dramatic pose.
José leans forward, his elbow on the table and hand over his mouth; Carmen takes his hand to pull him away. She teases when he hesitates, and starts sashaying off alluringly. Finally José flings his cup behind him, gets up, reaches across the table, falls over the stool; Carmen continues to dance and beckon as he is helped up by the two owners; after a pause he follows Carmen off in a lovelorn daze, leaving the two owners slumped in disappointment (?) at the table; they swig their drinks.
The mountains: gypsies - strange, crooked figures wearing tall hats - mill about in a gully (?) amid craggy rocks and arid vegetation; a gypsy holding a shotgun looks out while standing on a log bridge and sees the couple; he moves aside, bowing; Carmen enters, toying with José and reeling him along; she pulls him across the bridge, they kiss and move on; gypsies pop their heads out to watch. Carmen takes José to the edge of a large rock and points downwards as 'Habanera' starts to play.
Gypsies dance in a clearing, linking hands. Carmen makes as if to kiss José, then jumps down as he reaches for her. The gypsies dance; Carmen bounds into their midst and is greeted; José is persuaded by one of Carmen's sultry poses to join in; his hat has fallen off his head and hangs round his neck; the gypsies dance as Carmen takes his hat and draws him along, up rocks. Carmen entices José into her tent, kissing him. José gets on one knee before Carmen, against the night sky over the mountains, framed by the interior of the tent (very theatrical!); Carmen's skirt is up to her knees and part of her dress may be hanging off her shoulder; he reaches up, gazing at her, then at her body as she moves her legs slightly (removing shoes?) and reaches out; Carmen leaps into his open arms and lap and they kiss. The gypsies dance outside as 'Habanera' ends.
Carmen leans over the sleeping José, and gathers his tassled coat, sword, hat, gloves and boots. Carmen in a shop in town, gives the items to a bespectacled old man with a hook nose and goatee (Jew?); for that he gives her heeled shoes, a long dress, an intricate veil and headdress; she disappears behind the curtain and is passed a fan and crown, and emerges in full costume, posing.
José sits up in bed in his shirt and underpants, looks for his boots, moves his bare legs in vain; he realises what has happened and takes a pair of trousers off the washing line, puts them on, wraps himself in a blanket/shawl from the bed, puts on a gypsy hat, pauses, sees a dagger and picks it up.
A crier in the town square blows his trumpet; a crowd. Carmen looks on with interest. A tall haughty toreador struts down the road, followed by a train of women. The toreador (Escamillo) pauses when Carmen approaches and attempts to seduce him; he remains unimpressed and pushes her to the ground. He and his train step over her and walk past to 'The March of the Torreadors'/'The Toreador's Song'. As Carmen hitches up her skirt to follow Escamillo, José follows her with the dagger.
A large poster: 'CORRIDA DE TOROS' with a picture of a bull and toreador; a line of assorted heads bobs past it, on the way to the arena. Three toreadors posture in the bullring; Carmen sits down among the crowd. José appears at the other end in the audience. The bull trots in and across the ring. It approaches one of the bullfighters who waves his cloak; the bull backs away. The bull approaches another toreador, armed with two banderillas, who waves them around; it backs away, into the middle of the three bullfighters as the crowd cheers; José stands among them.
José takes a pair of binoculars from a large man in front of him. He looks through them. Carmen sitting in the audience, fanning herself, through one of the lenses. José returns the binoculars, clambers through the crowd with the dagger out. Carmen sees, him, rises, her hand to her mouth. Carmen goes down the stairs, with José in pursuit. She turns and faces her attacker fearfully, he grabs her arm and raises the dagger. Carmen pauses, then vaults over the edge of the arena into the bullring as José watches helpessly.
Carmen flips into the ring. She moves towards the bull as the audience watch. The bull docilely sits before her as she sashays up and dances before it. It follows her as she moves backwards with exquisite grace, her fan still poised. The bull rears briefly on its hind legs and hoofs the ground. The toreadors perform a dance in the ring. Carmen, fan in one hand, produces a rose stalk with the other, places it in her mouth and beckons to the bull, which approaches eagerly, takes the rose and chews it, and trails after her.
The crowd are on their feet, cheering, as one of the toreadors holds his head. Carmen and the bull dance in the centre of the ring, the bull rising on its hind legs to dance with her as she holds its hoof; the toreadors stand on the sides, watching. Three toreadors perform a dance routine with their cloaks. Carmen and the bull dance, the latter even standing on its front hooves. The crowd throw hats, roses, canes, etc into the ring in fervid enthusiasm. Carmen curtseys before the bull and cartwheels onto its back, striking a pose on one knee; the crowd cheers. The bull carries Carmen off triumphantly; the toreadors follow, their hands joined above their heads as they all process round the ring, Carmen now standing on the bull's back.
Escamillo stops the bull, which throws Carmen off into his waiting arms; they embrace and kiss; the bull comes up behind them, headbutts them and tosses them on his back. The couple sit on the bull, about to leave the ring.
'Ende' in the proscenium. The curtain falls.
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