Monday, October 18, 2010


Neco z Alenky's "Alice" (1988) adds an interesting twist to the history of versions of Alice in Wonderland. The Czech film features a little girl among a cast of stop-motion creatures. The pace is very slow, and the overall mood is dark and drab, rather than the typical "let's imagine a lush and beautiful fanciful land for Alice to dream up." The white rabbit is a toy that comes to life-he is made of sawdust, which falls out every time he takes out his watch, and some scenes feature him eating sawdust out of a bowl, which I thought was cute. The caterpillar is made of socks. Everything is more grounded in reality. There is no music, which adds to the slowness. Each spoken line is followed by a close-up of Alice's mouth saying "said the White Rabbit" or "cried Alice," which gets a bit tiring (especially when watching the English version, where the lips and words don't match up.) Some props are more morbid-other animal characters are played by animal skeletons.

Isn't that a great image?

Alice has a doll of herself-with blonde hair and a matching dress. When she shrinks down to small sizes, she turns into the doll. The movie features famous Alice scenes, like the mad tea party, but also more obscure ones, like when the baby turns into a pig.

Now, some reviewers called it entirely true to the book, or more what Lewis Carroll intended when he wrote the book. I disagree. I like this interpretation, although to be honest, because it's so slow and repetitive, it's not one I'd watch again and again. But the tone I always got from the book was pure, lighthearted humor (not to mention a fast pace). This movie has very little humor and fixates on the bizarre factors. Those who thought this version was the most authentic were probably going on the assumption that Carroll was on opium when writing it. I don't know enough to comment on that, although I read a book about him once that was all about his love of riddles. He made lots of riddles, and the Alice books are full of hidden riddles-for example, "Through the Looking Glass" follows an actual chess game and the books shows you the moves each character makes. So I think it would be hard to do that type of thing while on drugs. However, evidence does point to him being perhaps a bit too intimate with little girls.

The film also adds imagery that was not necessarily emphasized in the books: drawers, scissors, and repetition. I can't say I understand the significance of those images. So the movie is worth a watch for Alice fans, but don't go out and buy the dvd.


  1. Oh my. I remember this one. I saw it about five years ago on YouTube.

    I've always been an "Alice in Wonderland" fan. I read the book before I saw any movie versions. My favorite movie adaptation is the 1972 one that has Fiona Fullerton playing Alice. I didn't know about "Through the Looking-Glass" for a long time, and I kept seeing the Tweedles in the movie versions, and I kept thinking to myself, "How did they get permission to use characters that Disney invented?" LOL!

    Seriously though, this 1988 Jan Svankmajer movie was WEIRD! I remember seeing Alice tossing stones in the lake at the beginning, and then it kept doing close-ups of her mouth, and she was saying (and I quote from memory, so don't blame me if it's wrong):

    "'Now then,' said Alice to herself. 'You will now see yourself in a movie... Made for children... Perhaps. But... I almost forgot. You must... Close your eyes. Otherwise,... You won't SEE anything.'"

    The mouth close-up was seriously freaking me out. I've had a phobia of bizarre images since age five (don't get me started on THAT story. I'll put it on my blog eventually, and you can read about it). Every time I see a really bizarre image, I literally start panicking, and I have to rest for about twenty minutes. Ugh. I don't get scared of movies easily, but a bizarre image does it every time.

    This movie didn't help my phobia at all. I DO prefer stop motion over CGI, as it looks more realistic. But, man! Was this movie trying to scare people or something? Those creatures were creepy.

    Add to that the bizarre nature of Alice climbing into drawers and drinking edible ink. What was this trash?

    No music whatsoever. An evil White Rabbit. In fact, every creature was evil.

    I will admit that I liked how the playing cards were actual cards.

    And then there was no music. And that just added to the creep factor.

    And then it kept doing the stupid mouth close-up, which got creepier and more annoying simultaneously.

    I mean seriously. After about twenty times of "said Alice," "said Alice to herself," "said the White Rabbit," "said the Caterpillar," I was literally shouting, "Shut up! Shut up!"

    And then at the very end, Alice has woken up, and the White Rabbit isn't in the glass case. And Alice picks up the scissors and says, "I think I'll cut HIS head off this time!" And then the mouth appears again, and says, "said Alice," and the movie ended. And I literally said, "What in the world did I just watch?"

    This movie was weird, creepy, and stupid. I know that they were trying to capture the "dream" aspect of the book by having everything be inside the house. But seriously, I don't know anybody who has read the book and then come up to me and said, "I imagined everything in her dream happening inside the house." It's just stupid. And the humor was one of the best parts of the book. I was disappointed that it was completely gone. And the ending... No... Just... No.

    I don't plan on ever watching this movie again. It was painful.

    1. Ha-I had completely forgotten about this movie! Which really goes to show that for me, at least, it had no staying power...