The Seven Ravens


Director: Diehl Brothers
Year: 1937
Rating: 6.0
Country: Germany

This is a wonderful stop-motion puppetry film produced by the Diehl brothers in Nazi Germany in 1937. Not so much for the story but for the care they take in making it. It is based on a fairy tale collected by the Grimm Brothers though after the initial set-up the film veers drastically away from the source material. To good effect since the tale is only a few pages long. Of course, this being made in Nazi Germany one looks for political inferences - and perhaps there is some as an innocent is accused of being a witch and sentenced to death. She is also voluntarily mute which perhaps means something in a period where keeping silent was often wise. Still if criticism of Nazi Germany was there it had to be very subtle or prison or execution was next in line.

The story is about a young girl who learns that years before her seven brothers were turned into ravens and that some consider it her fault though she was only a baby at the time. So she goes into the forest to look for them and a fairy comes to her and tells her that if she spins seven shirts and stays mute for seven years her brothers will reclaim human form. In the sixth year in the forest a Prince comes across her, falls in love and marries her. As the court jester says "she is the perfect wife, he always gets in the last word". And the first one. She gives him twin sons but they turn into ravens and fly away. Once the fairy shows up the film diverges totally from the Grimm story - which has a neat bit when she has to cut off her little finger to unlock a door. In the end of course this is a fairy tale - probably meant for children so for current day viewers it is the stop-motion that is of interest.

The stop-motion is terrific for its time - it is very intricate and complicated using light and shadow and having scenes in which multiple people and things are moving at the same time. I was most impressed though by a simple scene of the jester playing a guitar and his finger work. I can't imagine how many shots had to be made for this film. It was the Diehl brothers first stop-motion film but they went on to make a few more with their character of Mecki, a hedgehog, becoming very popular after the war.

Written up 10/2019