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?
CLICK HERE and watch 2009 MOVIES FOR FREE!
There have been many adaptations of Lewis Carrollís Aliceís Adventure In Wonderland and in 2010 will see the release of Tim Burtonís version of the classic tale. But there has been one version around for over twenty years now that has always been overshadowed for itís art house appearance and dark elements to make what is one of the best film adaptations.
Directed by Jan Svankmajer, his name may not be familiar to many people, but he is considered to be one of the most famous figures in the surreal filmmaking community and has been responsible for inspiring other filmmakers such as Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton.
Before attempting to adapt the story, he made short films using a mixture of different animation techniques and would have some stories told in live-action, which all lasted for thirty years before making his first feature Alice (dir. Jan Svankmajer).
After making the film, he continued for a few more years making short and feature length films to this day, as well as continuing to use the same animation techniques that have made him recognisable as an auteur film director.
The film starts with Alice playing with her toys and objects in a room when she sees the stuffed White Rabbit in a glass case in the corner coming to life, putting on an outfit and escaping through a desert that has appeared. Highly interested in where the White Rabbit is going, she follows him through the desert and discovers a weird version of Wonderland that visually represents a house and encountering different characters in different rooms.
With the narration taking on a dark approach in comparison to the traditional way the Lewis Carroll story is mainly told through film, it makes this version a breath of fresh air since the characters of Wonderland are surreally structured with animal skulls, big round eyes, lanky puppet-like bodies and wearing weird clothing or material. Itís also on the props where things are very surreal and sinister, including a bread stick that grows rusty nails and socks that travel through the floorboards.
The film seems to have a very high level of audio since the sounds are clearly heard and matches well with the visuals in terms of being very unsettling at times. Using the scenes when the White Rabbit appears, his mouth makes a very deep clicking noise when he is moving his lips and this gives the character the appearance of being more unusual and sinister then when he is silent.
Thereís no music playing throughout the film other than the beginning and end credits, which is a good thing since the film is very vision based, with sound effects added to bring attention for the character on screen.
Narration is used as the only way the audience knows what Alice is saying to the characters and it is used for overlapping the footage on screen and then the scene cuts to a close-up of Aliceís mouth, which is used to let the viewer know that she is telling the story.
The animation used in the film is done using models made by various objects, bones, materials, stuffed animal body parts and clothing that move by using stop motion. With the models designed in a very surreal fashion by Jan Svankmajer himself, the film focuses on the dark and twisted nature of the classic tale and can be quite daunting to watch the twitching White Rabbit harming Alice in several scenes and can appear quite nightmarish.
Characters whom people will be familiar with from other adaptations might be taken back a bit by the way they appear in this version. The White Rabbit is more sinister and demanding, with him and his cavalry of distorted animals trying to force Alice into a boiling pot of white liquid, while The Mad Hatter and The March Hare appear as old toys that go round a table and repeating their actions.
It definitely deserves to be seen, especially if you havenít seen a surreal art house film before. Itís a shame that many people havenít heard of this film as much as other adaptations and though it might not be everyoneís taste, itís worth picking it up and giving it a watch.