39. The Idea – Berthold Bartosch

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SUMMARY: A thinker dreams up a doll sized naked woman whose nakedness upsets the rigid order of society.

WHY IT’S HERE: Based on Frans Masereel’s wordless novel, made up of woodcut prints, Berthold Bartosch’s ‘The Idea’ is one of the most unusual experiments of 1930s animation. Bartosch was a contemporary of Lotte Reiniger, working alongside her on several of her silhouette films, but ‘The Idea’ is quite different, eschewing Reiniger’s dark silhouettes in favour of an inventive use of light and dark. The naked woman who provides the story’s main thrust is given a virginal, holy quality by the light that seems to radiate from her, even as the human characters clamour to cover her nakedness and suppress her image. Often striking in its imagery, ‘The Idea’ is a little muddy in its meaning. There is clearly an allegorical intention here and perhaps it is kept vague in order to exploit its possibly multiple points about freedom of expression, sexual repression and the threat perceived by a male-dominated society of a fearless woman. But across its 25 minute lifespan, ‘The Idea’ could perhaps have benefited from a more solid foothold for its audience. That said, it is often stunning and its ambiguity does make it infinitely rewatchable and a prime candidate for discussion. Its sexual frankness never veers into titilation and the result is a tasteful, socially concious film that seems considerably ahead of its time.

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