Jan Švankmajer, 1988
Using stop-motion animation, Švankmajer creates a surrealistic version of the already strange tale of Alice, the dreamy girl who dreams her way to Wonderland.
Through a drawer a.k.a. the rabbit hole, Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová) follows a stuffed White Rabbit, leading her to Wonderland. I’m sure you already know the rest of the story.
Dubbed in English, this Czech weirdfest might seem tedious to some audiences. For some unfathomable reason, Švankmajer likes to show close-ups of the narrator’s lips while uttering the perpetual: “…said Alice
” “…said the White Rabbit
” “…said the Caterpillar
” “…said the March Hare
” “…said the [insert character’s name here]
.” This sh*t goes on throughout the film. This particular technique makes the film ridiculously monotonous, to the point of droning.
In fairness to Švankmajer, this film is a unique and original take on Lewis Carroll’s everlastingly adapted novel. A minimalistic film that relies heavily on its visual complexity, Alice hardly has any dialogue or musical score, and has only one human actor: Miss Kohoutová.
Being the main character, Miss Kohoutová is impressive in her first and only film. She effectively conveys Alice’s innocence, curiosity, and loneliness.
I found the film a bit alienating, which is probably what Švankmajer intended the film to be. He wants the audience to feel what Alice generally felt in Wonderland: alienated.
Alice is a brave attempt on the classic novel. It is a children’s story that is not exactly intended for kids, the film is generally creepy in terms of its aesthetic aspect.
To put it succinctly, Švankmajer’s film is a surrealistic nightmare, the kind that can only be appreciated if you’re a fan of surrealism.
After Alice, I got to see Darkness Light Darkness, Švankmajer’s short film about a clay man constructing itself in a small room. This shorty got my attention more than Alice itself. Darkness Light Darkness is both funny and scary, its allegorical layer exuded by the claustrophobic setting, somewhat resembling Alice in Wonderland.
Trailer for Alice: