March 21, 2017
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
In their first composition for film, the critically-acclaimed Stockholm-based band Dungen presents a new mystical and vibrant live score to accompany the historic animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, created by the pioneering animator Lotte Reiniger.
When it premiered in Germany in 1926, The Adventures of Prince Achmed was hailed as the first full-length animated film, pre-dating Disney's Snow White by more than a decade. Ninety years later, this beautiful, mesmerizing and utterly seductive film, distinguished by Reininger's trademark cut-outs of intricate silhouettes, still stands as one of the great classics of animation.
Taken from The Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse, sending the rider on a flight to his death. But the prince foils the magician's plan, and soars headlong into a series of wondrous adventures — joining forces with Aladdin and the Witch of the Fiery Mountains, doing battle with the sorcerer's army of monsters and demons, and falling in love with the beautiful Princess Peri Banu. This cinematic treasure has been beautifully restored with its original spectacular color tinting.
The members of Dungen built on the band's signature blend of psychedelic rock with Swedish and other folk music by immersing themselves in the groundbreaking visual language of this landmark film and the characters portrayed within. The resulting musical narrative was recently released as Dungen's first all-instrumental album, titled Häxan after the film's menacing character, the Witch. Dungen burst onto the international scene with its highly-regarded album Ta Det Lugnt in 2004, and under the direction of their multi-instrumentalist mastermind Gustav Ejstes, released nine full-length records and toured globally over the past 15 years. Dungen's enduring exploration of pop, progressive rock, jazz, and folk sounds continue to be, as Pitchfork wrote, "beautiful, optimistic, strange, and singular as ever," and has "proved surprisingly durable, even influential."
Dungen's score for The Adventures of Prince Achmed is moody, evocative, stormy, and brimming with life. It provides both a tacit summation of the band's musical journey thus far, and gives the beloved group a chance to stretch out like never before. Here, the psychedelic rock is more bombastic, the softer passages more exquisite, the tension in musical interplay more dramatic, the intentions remarkably robust. Dungen's unique score, both through the music and its live performance, becomes a transformative experience, revitalizing an under-recognized gem of cinematic history.