Alice (1988)

Alice peeping some such horror in her

Alice peeping some such horror in her “wonderland.”

Having seen Jan Švankmajer’s Faust and Little Otiknaturally I was curious to see what the animation genius would do with a story like Alice in Wonderland. So, one hot day this June (yeah, I got a big backlog of movies to write up, what of it! I have a life don’t you know!) some friends and I sat down to watch his Alice. It’s sort of exactly what I expected.

There isn’t much reason to go into the plot; I’d venture to say most folks are familiar, at least on some level, with Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. Švankmajer doesn’t deviate too much from the original ideas of the text, it’s his interpretation that’s wildly different than anything you’ve probably seen before. When I think of Alice in Wonderland I must admit I envision the Disney cartoon from 1951: a prim and proper English girl falls asleep and dreams of a strange land with rushing rabbits, cheshire cats and evil queens.

Tiny Alice wades through a dank and dingy room, on her way to lord knows where.

Tiny Alice wades through a dank and dingy room, on her way to lord knows where.

While Švankmajer keeps most aspects of the original intact, it’s their presentation he toys with. Instead of a pristine English countryside, our Alice is living in a dirtier, more dangerous place. Rather than the vibrant colors of the Disney cartoon, Švankmajer paints the picture in dim shades of brown and gray where everything is in a state of disrepair and decay. Alice walks around this “wonderland” where doorknobs and handles consistently break off, and the rabbit she follows isn’t a manifestation of a cute, living bunny, it is instead a reanimated taxidermy piece that constantly needs to patch himself up!

If you’re familiar with Švankmajer, it should come as no surprise that the visual effects and animation in this film are fantastic. I love watching his work. But, god damn this movie felt like it was about twice as long as it should have been, and it clocks in at only eighty-four minutes! Something about the pacing is really off, and I hate to say it makes watching the film almost feel like a

Queen of Hearts to Taxidermy Bunny: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

Queen of Hearts to Taxidermy Bunny: OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

chore. I’d like it better maybe if it were broken up into segments so I could consume it piece-by-piece rather than sitting down and watching the whole thing at a go. It wasn’t just me, a few of my pals watching it felt the same way too. I can’t put my finger on it but the film has a sleepy quality that really makes it difficult to get through. Perhaps it’s because so much of the film goes by without any background music?

Anyway, even though it’s a little tough to get through for some of us (Q had no problems; loved it – he is more patient than me!) I am not sorry to have watched it. I’d even recommend this to the right kind of person. It is definitely a film worth seeing, especially if you’ve never seen any of Švankmajer’s work and have a thing for Alice in Wonderland adaptations. But of all three I’ve seen, I’d have to say I liked Little Otik the most. Of course, that may just be because it was the first film of his I’d ever seen, and what the dude can do is pretty darn impressive.


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