Lewis Carroll is very famous for one novel: Alice in Wonderland. This novel has been directly and indirectly adapted into many different films throughout the ages. But none of them capture the insane amount of nonsense that is present in the original work. The films try to make the story young kid friendly by leaving out the disturbing things that happen to Alice down that rabbit hole, but they lose what makes the novel so great. Kids need to be scared. They need to probe the depths of their fears and have nightmares and all that jazz. If their lives were all sunshine and rainbows we would have no interesting artists or well-rounded people. This is where the film Alice comes in. Dark, twisted and sure to give your five-year old nightmares, Alice is a stop motion masterpiece that is intellectually stimulating and very frightening indeed.
Jan Svankmajer is a god among stop motion animation lovers. He has made several short films, but mostly it is this film that has influenced so many other more famous animators (cough: Tim Burton). He took the story of Alice in Wonderland and made even more grotesque than it was originally. For example the rabbit has his watch stored in his body and every time he pulls it out he wipes sawdust-like stuffing from it. In one scene the rabbit is eating his own stuffing and safety pinning himself back together. If that does not seem odd then there might be something wrong with you. However each vignette or scene screams with originality that was missing from the Disney-fied version of the same story. Svankmajer doesn’t try to bring a strong narrative to the forefront, he just cherry picks the different aspects of Alice in Wonderland and strings them together in one surreal ride.
To call this a completely animated film would be wrong. In fact the only thing not animated (at least not the whole time) is Alice. She is played by a young emotionless girl. I think this is where it was hard for me to completely praise this film. She does absolutely nothing for me as the viewer. Maybe that was on purpose, but I found when she is transformed into a small doll, her performance went up significantly. But it isn’t about her, it is more about what happens to her and the colorful characters she encounters. Alice is inherently not as interesting as the Queen of Hearts, the rabbit who is always very late, or the Mad Hatter even in the novel.
I could really just go on and on about how this one animated part was cool and how another one gave me the shivers, but then this review would be boring to anyone who hasn’t seen the film. I would suggest that if you are interested in the story of Alice in Wonderland that you see this film. It will change your perception of it being just an innocent child’s fantasy. It is so much more and that is why Svankmajer is great at what he does. He can make the grotesque beautiful and the beautiful grotesque.