This animated documentary film tells the story of the serpentine dancer Loïe Fuller (1862 – 1928): dancer, inventor, pop icon of Art Nouveau, innovator of stage technology, businesswoman, filmmaker, empresaria. Numerous photographic and film documents, drawings and animations reconstruct Loïe Fuller’s life and work around 1900 and show the audience’s enthusiasm for her barely documented stage performances.
Loïe Fuller – The Electric Sprite
Short film Animadok, 16 min., 2022
A documentary of Loïe Fuller told in the same abstract, Art Nouveau aesthetic that Fuller was famous for. As a pioneer of visual effects and modern dance, what emerges is the story of a woman whose innovations played into the early history of cinema.
Amanda Barbour in the catalogue for Tricky Women/Tricky Realities 2022
Loïe Fuller. The Electric Sprite
It turns out that the word stringent is reminiscent of a string, on which thought is lined up in separate beads. All other etymologies are lies. The distance between the beads can be very large, so that our thinking has time to forget itself.
„Etymologischer Gossip. Essays und Reden“, kookbooks Verlag, Berlin, 2021
Tracking down an exceptional character – one who had been forgotten for decades – Betina Kuntzsch’s film reawakens the magic of Loïe Fuller as well as her shimmering audacity. Because her “Serpentine Dance” was not magic, even at the fin de siècle. The mesmerising choreographies were based on years of experimentation with phosphorus, crystals and textiles, as well as the optical and technical stage innovations with which she created the perfect illusion: anticipating the immersive space and the dematerialised, virtual body at the end of the 19th century.
The date is 5th December 1892,Mehr anzeigen
and Loïe Fuller is making her debut at the Folies Bergères. Points of light, coloured and luminous threads ripple through the space. One dancer, multiple figures. Energy and aggregate states transform into intangible lines, into droplets and waves. Light sources become water, become crystal as if by magic. Her body sets hundreds of metres of black gauze into vibrant motion – a shadowy silhouette among iridescent contours and solitary spots of light. Bright spots, pouring colour. To the audience, she seems “far beyond the falling tears”. Le tout-Paris celebrates La Loïe! The American soon became the epitome of the Belle Époque, a pioneer of modern dance and a source of inspiration for abstract art, , immortalised in drawings and sculptures or the famous lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec. Stéphane Mallarmé celebrated Fuller’s “artistic intoxication” and “technical achievements”. The Lumière brothers and Auguste Rodin were among her admirers and circle of friends, as was Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie.
Betina Kuntzsch explores the boundaries of materiality and immateriality in her video-drawings as well as in her animated documentaries. Finding illuminating layers of space and time in the material resistance of video fields, film dirt or artefacts, faded photos or decomposed celluloid, she is able to lend a fascinating material quality to the immaterial medium.
Kuntzsch spent around three years researching for her 16-minute animated film. Hat in Film- und Bildarchiven bislang unveröffentlichtes Material entdeckt, Kristalle für eigene Aufnahmen gezüchtet, die Geschichte einer Amerikanerin in Paris vor Ort, in Bibliotheken und im Internet erforscht. She reconstructed Loïe Fuller’s dance from her sketches and notes and, by translating them into the lineatures of the video-drawing, echoed the (apparent) lightness with which Fuller’s “sculptures of light” were created live on stage.
In an impressive collage of historical photographs and film strips, quotes from contemporary witnesses and personal statements by the dancer and choreographer, who was born in 1862, Kuntzsch has documented graphically the life, research and work of this extraordinary and unusually emancipated woman.
Marie Louise Fuller, who came from a village in the US state of Illinois, was an artist and inventor, producer, filmmaker and entrepreneur all in one, and an avowed homosexual. The film traces the elaborate development of the stage robes as a kind of declaration of love by Fuller to her decades-long partner in life and work, Gabrielle Bloch.
A long overdue tribute to an artist, explorer and adventurer whose ground-breaking innovations revolutionised costume and stage design, liberating ballet from the tutu as well as the female body from its corset.
Michaela Nolte, Berlin 2022
Speaker: Merrily Jones, Betina Kuntzsch
Sprachaufnahme: Christian Riegel, Urs Hauck
Sound Design: Michael Walz
Sound Mix: Christian Riegel
Film Transfer: Kornmanufaktur
Dramaturgy: Christina Schmidt
Music: Joachim Gies
Written, directed, animated by Betina Kuntzsch
Loie Fuller, Julius Meier-Gräfe, Silvia Beach, Georges Rodenbach, Stéphane Mallarmé, Maid Marian, Arsène Alexander, Leo Claretie
BPK, Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin, Maryhill Museum of Art, New York Public Library/Dance Division, Pathé Geaumont, Spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg, Stadtmuseum Berlin, www.boudoir-cards.de, www.toverlantaarn.eu, Archiv Betina Kuntzsch
Film material from “Le Lys de la Vie” (1920) in Cooperation with CND Centre national de la danse
Virginie Aubry, Anna Goodwin, Ines Hahn, Phil Karg, Martin Koerber, Rudolf Krönke, Dr. Urs Latus
Tricky Women, Vienna, 2022
Master of Art Film Festival, Sofia, 2022
Curtas Vila do Conde, 2022
TanzAhoi! Hamburg, 2022
pocketfestival for shorts, Aachen, 2022
Festival Internazionale di Cinema e Donne-Firenze, 2023
35th Internationales Film Festival Dresden, 2023
Awards & Prizes
Deutsche Film und Medienbewertung:
Prädikat besonders wertvoll – FBW-Rating ‟Special Commendation”
“I was born in America – but made in Paris.” Loïe Fuller once said that about herself. The charismatic and multi-talented woman invented and perfected the so-called “serpentine dance” at the end of the 19th century and thrilled her audience with it. But Fuller was not satisfied with the role as a dancer. She patented her inventions, taught her art to other girls and women, organised tours for other artists and arranged performances of all kinds. All this together with her partner Gab Sorère. In her animated documentary, filmmaker and artist Betina Kuntzsch focuses on this extraordinary creative and lets her life and work fan out in a unique rush of images. Kuntzsch’s animation, the rhythmic montage and the accompanying music turn the carefully composed historical footage into a constantly changing kaleidoscope of impressions. And in its cinematic style, it could hardly better imitate Fuller’s legendary dance itself, in which light and movement, powerful and flowing movements unite. To a Gesamtkunstwerk that respectfully bows to the great artist Loïe Fuller and celebrates her extraordinary life as an independent and emancipated woman.
35. International Filmfest Dresden:
LUCA GenderDiversity Film Award
We honour a multi-voiced and electrifying film that blends historical footage with animation and evocative music to portray a queer pioneer of visual art and her relationship with another woman: Loïe Fuller and Gab Sorère. Together, they popularised the Serpentine Dance in the United States and Europe during the 19th century. This archaeologically inspired film simultaneously offers a critical perspective on the prevailing history of film, which is also a history of exploitation and forgetting. In this history, the names of the Lumière brothers naturally occupy a place alongside concepts such as “cinema” or “Serpentine Dance”, while the names of female visionaries who shaped this art are often missing.
The filmmaker we honour is also a versatile, interdisciplinary artist whose work is a patchwork of materials and artistic approaches. Through her own creations and those of Loïe Fuller, whom she brings back to our memory, she demonstrates that queer art transcends shallow identity attributions – that it crosses boundaries of storytelling, gaze and image to create new perspectives on history and ultimately on our present.
Sponsors: LAG Jungen- und Männerarbeit Sachsen, Genderkompetenzzentrum Sachsen, LAG Queeres Netzwerk Sachsen