English Title: Alice
Original Title: Neco z Alenky
Country: Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, UK, West Germany
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Cinematography: Svatopluk Maly
A loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, this otherworldly piece of work marks the first feature-length filmmaking from Czech stop-motion animation master Jan Svankmajer since he threw himself into this line of work in the 1960s.
It is live action combines stop-motion, Alice is play by the cherubic Kohoutová, while her smaller version and other characters are all made of puppets (mostly grotesque) and cards (“off with their heads”, the Red Heart Queen often commands), and “the wonderland” is set in a neglected building, often Alice stumbles into a room with surrealistic happenings and there is always a desk with a drawer, and whenever Alice tries to open the drawer, she would mechanically pull out the drawer knob first, take a stumble, then use some instrument to open it. The repetition is rather unexciting for the feature-length, the same can be referred to the annoying close-up to Alice’s lips whenever she do the voiceover of the lines of herself (sometimes her thoughts) and all the puppet characters, with the obdurate emphasis of mentioning the addresser in the end of each sentence. As much as I admire the fluid technique of the animation and its fantastic imagination of concocting such a surrealistic template, I can not dispel the awareness of some certain degree of frustration and boredom from time to time.
Furthermore, it is not a children’s film in any sense, the setting is creepy and uncanny, the characters including the white rabbit, the mad hatter, the March hare, the caterpillar, the frog and the fish, are more germane to appear in nightmares than day dreams, their behaviour is irrational and repetitive, so is Alice’s robotic acting, too amateur to invite viewers being involved profoundly.
The recurring visual themes begin to take its toll in the long run, maybe short is a much more appropriate media for Svankmajer’s art form, in any case, it is a beguiling novelty with some innovate ideas, plus it must take meticulous elbow grease to pull off such a big project, although I can be hardly enjoy this film, stand in awe of the final product, Svankmajer is a one-of-a-kind virtuoso in this particular tributary, this is a fact no one can contradict and the film is a true eye-opener if judging with its own merits.