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A memorably bizarre screen version of Lewis Carroll's novel 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', mixing one live actor (Alice) with a large variety of stop-motion animated creatures, ranging from the complex (the White Rabbit) to the incredibly simple (the Caterpillar, consisting of a sock, a couple of glass eyes and a pair of false teeth). The original story is followed reasonably faithfully, though those familiar with this director's other films won't be the least bit surprised by the numerous digressions into Svankmajer territory, living slabs of meat and all. As the opening narration says, it's a film made for children... perhaps? Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
In the outdoor scene when Alice cuts her finger, she is obviously missing a front tooth. See more »
Alice thought to herself... Alice thought to herself 'Now you will see a film... made for children... perhaps... ' But, I nearly forgot... you must... close your eyes... otherwise... you won't see anything.
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We have all be introduced by either the written form or the theatrical form of the story of "Alice in Wonderland". Unfortunately, I feel that most of us have been introduced to this story through the film version instead of the written word. Sad as it may seem, we have all been sucked into either the Disney version, the Care Bear's version, or better yet even the recent made-for-TV version that was on ABC. So, with that being said, we all then know the story of Alice's journey through Wonderland. For all of you who have perhaps missed out on this fabled children's tale, let me recap for you quickly:
White Rabbit, Small and Big, Caterpillar, Tweetlede & Tweetledum, the Walrus, the pig baby, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, "Off with their heads!!!", the Cheshire cat, and the Alice dream.
Although that may seem like a jumbled line of words and phrases, that actually accurately sums up the entire plot of the children's story. What surprises me is that over time the film versions of this story have not changed. They have continued to show this innocent child being swept up in this imaginary and beautiful "Neverland" where she finds herself being the center of attention. I am not sure if studios are afraid to topple the Disney version, or if there is no creativity running through the minds of writers to make a fresh new story of this old tale, but something needed to be done. It was a tired story, that needed a modern day face-lift. With this said, let me introduce you to the Czech version of this fairy tale. While I applaud it for taking a much darker twist to this story, I do denounce it's use of stop motion animation to create the impossible.
Lewis Carroll, the author of the story, really intended "Alice in Wonderland" to be a very scary and dark story for children, and until Disney put their hands on it...it was. What Czech director Jan Svankmajer has done brought back the darkness to Alice. Almost taken from a page out the directing book by David Lynch, it abruptly begins with Alice announcing that she is going to watch a movie...this movie to be exact. She then proceed to play in her room. The movie does follow the actual story of Alice, but it takes a nightmarish version of the favorite characters. For example, the White Rabbit constantly looses his stuffing, only to pull his watch out of his stomach to proclaim that "He is very late for a date". He refills himself by eating wood chips that immediately fall back out of him. At the Mad Hatter party, a wind-up March Hare sits during the entire scene and butters watches to make sure that the gears get oiled. The lady who was watching the baby who is actually a pig is portrayed in this film as a frog footman who battles flies with a very lifelike tongue. Even the smallest of characters are evil. There is a scene with a door mouse that crawls up Alice's head when she is sitting in a pool of her own tears, and proceeds to set up camp in her hair.
For children...I think not...original...I think YES! While it even ends the same as the other versions of "Alice", the feeling that it leaves in your mind and stomach afterwards will be remembered further more than the cutesy animated version.
I tried hard to like this movie. It was art, it was foreign, it was from my native country...but I just couldn't connect with the stop-motion animation.
I don't want to stray you the wrong way, if you enjoy this style of animation, then I really recommend this film to you. I guarantee that you will never think of "Alice in Wonderland" in the same way. The symbolism was very strong and very poignant. I enjoyed how the feeling of Wonderland actually being a part of the house. I loved how the director used household items to create this normally "pretty or cuddly" characters. I also enjoyed the darkness to this film. When I think about it, I don't think of "Alice in Wonderland" as a children's story. A young girl follows a rabbit through an uncharted area (not worried that she is not home) and creates havoc all throughout this peaceful town. When she is finally caught, her punishment handed down by the elected Queen is not fulfilled...instead she awakens only to discover that it was a nightmare. I was always curious why there were so many cute characters in a nightmare. I think Svankmajer saw the darkness in the story and brought it out in this version.
Overall, I enjoy seeing another side of a story that our society loves so much. I love seeing artists take a vision that we have all seen before and turn it into their own design. I think this was done with this film. I applaud my Czech friend for all of the work on this film, and I suggest tackling yet another children's classic soon!!
Grade: *** out of *****
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