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lupercal's Review of Alice

rated it: posted: Apr 22, 2006
Reviews: 517 | KF Animation Editor
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Renowned Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer turns his hand to the feature film with 'Alice', and the result is not quite what you might expect.

Despite some possibly disturbing or at least disconcerting imagery, 'Alice' isn't really a shocking, Dada distortion of 'Alice in Wonderland' - in fact you could argue that it follows the original story at least as faithfully as Disney's 1950's version. It's just that the characters and objects of the story are replaced with bizarre objects or assemblages of objects (I loved the room filled with socks that burrowed through the floorboards).

It really isn't as dark and sinister as some people might have you believe. In fact I found myself having a chuckle at quite a few scenes. I think this is one thing that seperates Svankmajer from his disciples such as the Brothers Quay. Svankmajer's tongue is rarely far from his cheek, whereas the Quays tke themselves terribly seriously.

At the beginning of the film Alice (who is alternatively a real actor and a surprisingly well animated doll) follows a stuffed white rabbit which smashes out of the glass case in her room, leaking sawdust. From there on, most things follow the original story quite closely. It's just Svankmajer's surrealist imagery which replaces the more familiar characters and objects we have come to know.

But there, perhaps, is the point. 'Alice in Wonderland' is essentially surreal. Has Svankmajer disorted it, or restored it to its original weirdness for a late 20th century audience?

'Alice' isn't quite a masterpiece, but it's an intriguing, and surprisingly funny excusrion from Jan Svankmajer.

A few things haven't changed from 'The Flat', 20 years earlier. Knobs and handles inevitably break off when you try to open things with them, chickens still make their inexplicable appearance, people still get trapped inside rooms, and food should never be trusted to behave like normal food.

animated movie Alice © Channel 4 (UK) / Condor Films / Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) / Schweizerische Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft
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