Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Many Sides of Wonderland


There are many different interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. While some are dark and eerie, others are cheery and bright. In the past few weeks I’ve read Carroll’s novel along with his sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and viewed two adaptations of Alice’s adventures in film form.

The first film I watched was Alice, by Švankmajer who is a Czechoslovakian director. It may be the culture difference, but this film was demented and horrifying to me. It differed from the book in many ways but also took the form of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland more than Through the Looking-Glass. From the beginning of the movie, when the sounds are intense and creepy, when there is no one stirring but panning through the decrepit messy room, there is violence present for the stones are being tossed into the cup of tea and a few minutes later the white rabbit is breaking the glass and tearing his own stomach open to get out of his cage. Though the entire movie was dark and had a creepy industrial setting. The movie takes place in a sort of underground run down motel where inanimate objects take on life. Even Alice herself transforms into a child’s doll when she drinks the shrinking potion/cookies. This frightened me so much because I am extremely afraid of dolls ever since I was young. Another thing that really freaked me out was when the rabbit, Bill, and the other creatures with skull heads made a huge paper machete of Alice which trapped her. That was definitely not in the book, but it was a creative play with inanimate objects taking on life like qualities for the director. The sounds throughout the entire film were heightened compared to the almost nonexistent dialogue only produced by Alice’s lips, which also seemed off because the mouth was moving for Czech language while she was speaking English. The entire film was odd and off in my opinion. Again, back to the sounds, the “owe” of Alice herself and the rabbit was disturbing to me because they were being violent to each other and clearly not stopping even when the other protested it was hurting them. The director used a sock with dentures and eyes to represent the caterpillar. While I found this creative, I also found it very strange and not at all flattering to the character. I also kept wondering why the rabbit was so intent on possessing scissors, though in the end I was horrified to find out he was cutting of heads with them! When Alice returns to reality, the glass case in which the rabbit use to be is still broken and empty. She finds the pair of scissors and thinks to herself that she would like to cut the rabbits head off. The ending is very ominous and leaves us with a sense of violence and terror for the little girl wants to cut off the head of her stuffed animal! This is not a wonderland or children’s story in any way.

In Disney’s version, Alice in Wonderland, it takes on a happy atmosphere and is clearly a children’s film. This film incorporates both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. I made note in my book that in the first novel, there are two chapters that are completely left out in any of the film adaptations called “The Mock Turtle’s Story,” and “The Lobster-Quadrille.” Also, the book is opened up by a poem that starts with the line “All in the golden afternoon,” which reminded me of the song the flowers sing in the Disney version, though the flower scene is entirely from the sequel. As well, the queen giving Alice lessons on proper etiquette, the Bread-and-butterfly, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” and the concept of an un-birthday are from the sequel and incorporated into this film. This film differs from Alice in that it is a cartoon, it has a brighter and more optimistic setting, it is more outdoors and not confined to dirty walls, the characters she meets are not so mean to her (differs from the books as well), there are many songs included to lighten the madness, and there is hardly any violence as well as Alice being a little smarter in situations.

I must say I enjoyed the Disney version much better than the other film and the two novels. I’ve always loved the Disney film and reading the book was very sad to me because the tone and situations were much different and drawn out. When reading Through the Looking-Glass I was already familiar with Carroll’s style of writing so I was not as shocked, but it was different from the first and still possessed unanswered nonsense for no apparent reason other than to make you wonder what the characters are talking about. The film Alice will never be a favorite of mine though it was an experience to see a foreign film such as that.

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