The Emperor's Nightingale | Chicago Reader

The Emperor's Nightingale

72 minutes 1949

Czech animator Jiri Trnka won a subsidy from the communist government for this feature-length fantasy, adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen tale, and the production funds are evident onscreen in the fine fabrics Trnka uses to create an ancient Chinese court. The characters are richly costumed, and in contrast to the cheap flats of his previous feature The Czech Year, the walls of the court are covered in webbings of pleated white gauze or vertical strands of colored beads. The emperor has every toy a man could want, but when he sees an image of a bird in a book, none of his courtiers can identify the strange creature; in a dazzling sequence, the emperor marches down the length of a wall covered in a giant, white lace doily, the little holes forming blackened circular windows through which his courtiers regretfully shake their heads. The film became another international success, winning the top prize at the Locarno film festival in Switzerland and a U.S. release with Boris Karloff providing the English-language voice-over narration. Continue reading>>

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