A Dark Sense of Humour

“In a long career spanning some 55 years in stop-motion puppet animation, Russian-Polish animator Wladyslaw Starewicz produced a fair few stand-out films. The Beautiful Leukanida is a very early example of Starewicz’s style and vision: trained in entomology, Starewicz was already familiar with preparing dried insects for study so using a ready-made if unusual cast to appear in his dramas and act out little fables of human foibles must have seemed the next logical step. The story here is one straight out of a Romantic fairy-tale universe, as re-enacted by beetles: two beetles duel over a noble lady beetle, the winner claiming her as his own and taking her back to his castle, the stag beetle loser swearing revenge and doing all he can to get her regardless of her feelings and opinions. The duel escalates into outright warfare between two kingdoms climaxing in an explosion that ultimately resolves nothing and kills everyone. Starewicz seems to have had quite a dark sense of humour. (…)

No matter how eccentric and Ruritanian the beetles’ universe is, with two rivals duelling for a lady’s favour, and their armies fighting desperately, ultimately the rival kingdoms are subject to the whims of the Cosmic Joker – in their case, Starewicz himself – who sees fit to destroy both kingdoms, all for nothing more than jealousy over a lady. Human wars have often been fought over even more trivial and / or less worthy causes. Ultimately there will be no winners. Had Starewicz known of the destruction that was later to come in a few years, no doubt he would have been horrified at his own prescience. The Beautiful Leukanida appears to be one of the earliest stop-motion animation films by Starewicz still in existence, and is worth watching mainly to see the high technical standard the animator had already achieved early in his career. The plot intentionally resembles a fairy-tale in its setting and in the way it develops, yet in its climax and resolution it becomes a modern, even prophetic warning of the dangers of human, all-too-human rivalries and jealousies.”
Under Southern Eyes

“He [i.e. Starewicz] described his work on the cartoon in the following way: ‘Naturally, first, an insect should be properly prepared. It’s not too hard to pass a thin wire through its legs, gluing it to its body with wax. I made the ‘battlefield’ with modeling clay to have a foundation that could hold an insect’s legs in place. There was no difficulty with the insects’ movements. Having thought out the future battle of the horned beetles, I prepared some basic poses. Every movement during filming was broken down into several phases. I set the light for each frame.’ The movie was silent and had no captions; instead, it was supplied with a detailed description so the viewer could understand what was happening on-screen. It was read aloud by narrators at every showing. The film ran well into the 1920s. After the Revolution, The Beautiful Leukanida was renamed ‘A Courtesan on the Throne’ – with the Bolsheviks no doubt wishing to denounce the unfaithful bug queen…”

>>> Christmas with Starewicz
>>> Wladyslaw Starewicz