Oskar Fischinger

Student animation in the vein of Oskar Fischinger. This animated short is visually synchronized to the music of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 which was provided by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and performed by Cecile Licad.

Animated by Eric Lindell.

About Oskar Fischinger 

Fischinger was born in Germany in 1900. An engineer and draftsman by trade, he co-owned an animation company in Munich by age 22, producing a variety of experimental films. His early artistic goal was to combine two of his great passions, music and the graphic arts. To this end, he experimented with photographing multiple forms — melting wax, cardboard cutouts, swirling liquids. According to Fischinger historian William Moritz, he devised “a machine that would slice very thin layers from a prepared block of wax, with a camera synchronized to take one frame of the remaining surface of the block. Any kind of image could be built into the wax block — a circle getting smaller would be a simple cone, for example.” Later he would create a Technicolor-style camera for Bela Gaspar that he would utilize in his early color films. Fischinger’s technical and creative efforts were applied, along with scores from Bach and Beethoven, to a hitherto unseen abstract art form known as “visual music.” A long-overdue reassessment of his achievement in this area is now possible, thanks to this thrilling seven-film compilation (the first of a projected series) that samples his work from 1927 through 1947.

Series of works:

Seelische Konstruktionen (Spiritual Constructions), from 1927, opens with two silhouetted male figures drinking together at a table. Over the course of the next few minutes, they change rapidly into all manner of shapes, objects, and creatures — miscellaneous blobs, snakes, lines, even a house that spits them out. This early take on psychedelia is a wonderfully witty exploration of a vast interior landscape.
Studie Nr. 7 (Study No. 7) was one of a dozen “studies” spanning the 1920s and ’30s. This one is a gorgeous visual tone poem with a few small, dynamic white shapes popping decoratively out of a sea of blackness. The mood here is reminiscent of the minimalist work of underground filmmakers like Gregory Markopoulos.
Filmstudie Nr. 8 (Film Study No. 8) takes the trancelike properties of the previous film to greater extremes, with dazzling shapes blinking on and off the screen to the rhythm of Paul Dukas’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Critic Christopher Knight has compared this to the Fantasia sequence that uses the same music, with Disney coming up second. He calls Fischinger’s film “a giddy, liberating experience of space in four dimensions.”
The next film here is in color (Gasparcolor). It shows Fischinger’s surprising modernism, this time using a vertigo-inducing Op art/Pop art canvas that predicts the work of later, lesser talents like Peter Max. It’s puzzling indeed that works like this weren’t revived for mass consumption during the 1960s
The 1936 color short Allegretto was originally made as an insert for a Paramount feature, The Big Broadcast of 1937, but the studio wanted to print it in black-and-white to fit the film and Fischinger refused. Eventually he bought back the rights to it. Again it’s hard to believe this film — with its dizzying concentric circles moving in and out of each other, its bold, beautiful colors, and wild angles — was made more than six decades ago.

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