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Mónica von Reust,
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This is the third and, thus far at least, last silent film adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice books that I've seen, and while Alice's adventures are the richest literature marketed to children I know, I don't think highly of these silent-picture illustrations. The 1903 and 1910 versions were significantly abridged, but this one largely transcribes the entire plot of Carroll's first book, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and even adds to it. Perhaps the most interesting insertion is the considerable amount of foreshadowing while Alice is first awake. Otherwise, the production is mostly pedestrian--employing stage costumes in the fashion of John Tenniel's original designs from the page and generally butchering Carroll's words with the overly-abundant title cards. One notable exception, however, is the use of natural landscapes, as opposed to the stage-bound look of some other screen iterations.
The outer narrative here is all foreshadowing. Alice loiters about as a woman makes tarts on a summer day and adds pepper to boiling soup. Alice's sister, then, recommends they play a game of hearts, which they don't. Instead, they walk about, as Alice picks up a rabbit and finds her cat Dinah up on a tree, among other incidents involving animals. A title card reads, "Things we do and things we see shortly before we fall asleep are most apt to influence our dreams." You don't say.
There are at least a couple different versions of this film floating around nowadays, which makes sense as what remains of the picture would've benefited from even more editing. The lengthy shots of the White Rabbit and others leading Alice from here to there make the plot tediously easy to follow. Moreover, intertitles such as, "Come On!," when the character is already gesticulating to Alice and holding her hand to indicate that they are leading her to the next static scene. Probably the most needless example of this continuity padding are the signs pointing the way to Wonderland and other destinations. There are even insert medium shots of the White Rabbit and, then, Alice as they stand next to the "Wonderland" sign, seemingly struggling to comprehend what the marker could possibly mean. On the other hand, this does seem to be a rare edition to feature the "You Are Old, Father William" poem visually.
Besides the clutter, this "Alice in Wonderland" stands out for its scenes taking place in natural landscapes. While this helps prevent a picture that largely consists of static shot-scenes from being overly stagy, one drawback is the effect of the superimpositions against relatively clear horizons. One such multiple-exposure shot has Alice leaving her body, as she sleeps, to follow the white rabbit and another features the Cheshire Cat's grin; both are largely illegible. Considering the fact that the likes of Georges Méliès and George Albert Smith had been employing this trick in film since 1898, including with white backgrounds not long thereafter, I'm not inclined to forgive the ineffectualness of the special effects here. Despite being set in nature, there's something unnatural, too, about a silent film adaptation of a book that is remarkable for its clever wordplay and a plotting that goes to pains to be simple to follow, from a book that is celebrated for its nonsense.
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