on 21 January 2006
I am really writing in reponse to those who suggest that this DVD is too dark for children. My children (girls age 4 and 2) saw this in the late 80's and called it the 'real' alice, prefering to watch it over and above the disney version which stayed in pristine condition in the video cupboard. I have lost count of how many times they watched this film - they never tired of it. So why did they like it? Who knows. THey were never scared of it as far as I could see. Perhaps it said someting to them about their own childish world which is full of seemingly strange and sometimes senseless events. They also liked the Narnia videos made around the same time, and 'The Box of Delights' both of which had dark undertones for very young children. When i was small I read unsanitized versions of Grimm and other European fairlytales, graduating onto Lord of the Rings and Gormenghast when i was 11. I loved them, and gobbled up books like this. They also loved dark stories like 'Not now Bernard by McKee (look it up, it's fab). Apparaently there are sound psychological reasons for the appeal of such dark materials for children so please don't dismiss this out of hand as a film for the young.
on 12 August 2005
Like some other reviewers, my parents taped this from late night telly for me to watch, back in the depths of childhood.
As for this film not being suitable to children, I say - pish!
Disurbing images, etc etc - it's only wierd to *rational* grown-ups, who've had a lifetime of conditioning in what consitutes *normal* film-making.
As a child, I loved this film, thought it was crazy, beautiful and amazing - it didn't give me nightmares, or make me afraid of milk or meat, because I didn't know it should be scary, no one told me.....
I say buy it for yourself, buy it for your kids, buy it for your grandparents, buy it for people you meet in the street and abandon twee disney forever!!!
Long may your socks dig holes and your jam bring forth drawing pins!!!!
on 23 May 2011
Strangely, in a past review of the BFI's Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films [DVD], I wondered whether the BFI would go to the trouble of releasing any of Svankmajer's feature-length films on DVD. Low and behold, the powers that be got their act together. Lord knows I've been through enough trouble already, trying to get hold of a second-hand VHS copy, only for it to get chewed up in my video player! This release is, then, very welcomed indeed.
As an avid fan of both Alice books, Svankmajer's version, along with Jonathan Miller's sadly out of print 1966 film, is in my eyes the most faithful and original adaptation there is. (Having said that, the episodes of the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat and the Mock Turtle are missing, so it isn't totally complete.) It is inevitable to compare it to that OTHER animated Alice, the 1956 Disney version, but in terms of technical prowess and visual eye-feasts Svankmajer's version is far superior. It is idiosyncratically Svankmajer (as is only to be expected as it was his first feature) in the tactile quality of the objects and characters that populate his Wonderland; this new spotless transfer enhances this in a way that previous releases have not, as it allows you to soak up every bit of crumbling plaster and every dry leaf in great detail. The BFI have done well, in their blurb, to call this film "creepy and disturbing"...it is far removed from (nearly all) other adaptations that prefer to portray Alice as a chirpy, jolly and spunky young lady: the only similarity she shares with other Alices is the colour of her hair. This Alice is more or less mute, save for the close-up of her lips as she narrates all the dialogue. Svankmajer has here crafted an eerie, disquieting atmosphere that stays with the viewer for a long time afterwards (and that I can testify to), manifested in the caterpillar-socks, the troupe of creatures that are like living Max Ernst collages of bones and taxidermy, the Mouse making a fire on top of Alice's head and the Frog-Footman with his long, grotesque tongue.
As is typical of the BFI it is all very well presented, with a hefty booklet containing background information. The discs themselves (for this is, even more fortunately, a dual-format edition) are both easily navigable. The extras are ample considering the obscure nature of the film (though none of the short films included are related to it), including a rather esoteric short from the Ministry of Food which shows a cartoon Alice in a world filled with different packaging labels. There is also the oldest ever film adaptation of Alice, now in sparkling HD, which is an interesting inclusion to any DVD of an Alice adaptation.
When compared to the other dingy, grimy and grainy transfers of the film circulating the world this BFI remaster inevitably comes out top, and the reasons for it are clear from the outset. As previously mentioned it is clean as a whistle, but it is the vibrant colours (particularly the greens and reds) and the surprisingly bright quality of the original film that really stands out for me. And one of the features that makes this release definitive and well worth buying is that it includes THE ORIGINAL CZECH AUDIO. I am sure anyone who has seen this film before is acquainted with the English dub that was universal until now, and the slightly jarring (and oftentimes annoying) voiceover. At long last the Czech language original is presented for the first time, with subtitles. (However, the English dub is included on the discs for anyone who finds it hard to let the voice work of Camilla Power go.)
If anyone has even a passing interest in Svankmajer's work or adaptations of Lewis Carroll's book, watch this version. And anyone who has even a fleeting desire to own it, don't hold back! This is a superb release, and I can only hope that the BFI will set about releasing other Svankmajer features such as Faust and Little Otik! (Who knows, the last time I wished that it came true.)
on 30 December 2008
This isn't a review, it's just to let you know.
I have lived with this film all my life, and it's one of the few films that absolutely made my childhood. I loved it. Seeing a slab of meat squidge across the table and slither into a pot was not scary in the least back then, although looking at the film now I can understand why my nan always groaned when I said I wanted to watch it. I didn't think anything of the animal skulls or the fact that the white rabbit was stuffed. In fact we had a spoon exactly like the one the rabbit uses to eat his sawdust, and I remember using it whenever I ate porridge so I could pretend I was him.
This film is completely suitable for children. Remember that children have a far more open mind than any adult. In fact it's probably better for people to watch it as a child, because seeing it for the first time as a teenager makes you go "Uuurrrgh! No way!". I believe you can only fully appreciate it by loving it through your childhood.
on 23 July 2011
A young girl sits next to her older sister in front of a creek, casually tossing stones into the bubbling waters out of boredom. Her sister quickly grows tired of this, and slaps her on the hand. She angrily stares dead on at the audience. This young lady is Alice. This is Lewis Carroll's beloved tale in the hands of Czechoslovakian animator, Jan Svankmajer - and you have never seen anything like it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alice in Wonderland, as you've never seen it before.
Once we are in Alice's room, it is immediately clear that she lives in an unconventional household. She is surrounded by sewing materials, porcelain dolls, mason jars full of preservatives, as well as stuffed creatures - leading us to believe that her father is probably a taxidermist, although we never see him. Alice lies down, perhaps to contemplate the events of her day, when something catches her off guard. The stuffed rabbit in the glass display begins to move. She watches in horror, as the rabbit pries its paws out of the wooden boards which it was previously nailed to. It dons a top hat and a pair of rusty scissors, and smashes its way out of the display, before running outside, leaving a trail of saw dust in it's path. Rather than hopping down a rabbit hole, this demented creature crawls into a desk drawer, which serves as the entrance to a dark cavern, which leads to an alternate dream world. Alice follows after him, and, after having a bit of trouble, wriggles inside the desk drawer. Once we are inside, we notice two things: most of this hallucination resembles Alice's immediate environment, and most importantly, we are definitely not in Wonderland. Many of the possessions from Alice's room make their way into this nightmare, from the porcelain dolls, to the preserved skulls and skeletons, right down to the sewing kits. They all play a part in Alice's descent into darkness for the next hour. Most of the familiar elements from Carroll's beloved stories are present, from the caterpillar, to the mad hatter and the March hare, to the inkwell and the tarts, which magically adjust Alice's height, according to her surroundings. It is all the same, yet entirely different. Added to that, it is never really clear whether Alice is dreaming or not. This sense of ambiguity is what drives the film. Gone are the whimsical overtones of the Walt Disney feature. This is Alice in Wonderland as it was meant to be - a tale of a dark and mysterious child, who is a victim of her own delusions.
This film was released in 1988 to critical acclaim, mainly in art-house circles. Many were impressed with Svankmajer's ability to take ordinary, everyday objects and animate them. Jan Svankmajer is a major artist in the surrealist movement, who has inspired many film directors, including Tim Burton, who would go on to direct his own version of the story years later. Compared to Burton's version, Jan Svankmajer's Alice ultimately follows the original text to a closer degree - although liberties are taken in abundance. Whereas Tim Burton's film was atypically aimed at family audiences, Jan Svankmajer takes the story back to its twisted roots.
The UK Blu-ray release of this film is fantastic. This transfer is beyond words. Watching this film on Blu-ray was like seeing it for the first time. The picture, sound, extras - EVERYTHING is wonderful. Blu-ray is region-free, DVD is PAL. It was a real joy to see one of my favorite films uncut, and in its original language. Thank God for BFI!
Everybody knows the story of Alice in Wonderland -- a little girl falls down a rabbit hole, and finds a charmingly surreal otherworld filled with strange creatures.
You won't find much of that charm in Jan Svankmajer's adaptation, "Alice." It's hard to believe that this film was actually aimed at children -- it's a mixture of live-action and stop-motion, populated by grotesque little skull-headed things, toothy socks, and stuffed animals that bleed sawdust. And it's brilliantly creepy. It's the stuff of nightmares, but it's every bit as surreal as Lewis Carroll's book.
Alice (Kristýna Kohoutová) is hanging around in her attic when she sees a stuffed rabbit detach itself from its base, dress itself, and vanish into a drawer in the middle of a field. She follows it down a strange dumbwaiter-like elevator... and finds herself in a surreal world where tube socks have eyes and teeth, rats cook rice on her head, potions turn her a doll, and strange skull-headed creatures attack her. And she hasn't even GOTTEN to the playing-card-land yet.
Like the original book, "Alice" is a pretty simple story -- it's all about a little girl's dreams of a "Wonderland" based on the items that are just lying around her attic. Skulls, socks, jars of goop, stuffed animals, dollhouses, and so on. As a result, Svankmajer's "Wonderland" is a cluttered, claustrophobic, grimy place that feels like it's been neglected.
He also ditches "typical" filmmaking, relying on a mixture of live-action (Alice) and stop-motion (everything else), which makes everything except our heroine look nightmarishly jerky and macabre. There are also some truly bizarre adaptations of Carroll's creatures, including a "caterpillar" made out of dentures and a sock, and a murderous stuffed rabbit with clacking teeth and soulless glass eyes.
Nobody says a word except Alice There is no music, and no sounds except the clicks, cracks, scrapes and clatters of the various creatures Alice encounters. It's bizarre and unsettling, which is what Svankmajer probably was going for.
Kohoutová is also the only actor in the entire movie, and there is nothing cutesy or twee about her performance. Her Alice sometimes does some stupid things, but she acts like a real little girl who just happened to wander into a strange, unpredictable world. It's even more impressive because Kohoutová hardly ever speaks onscreen, except for that creepy close-up of her mouth that happens every time Alice narrates something.
"Alice" keeps the bones of Lewis Carroll's story, but fleshes them out in something rich and strange. Weird, freaky and delightfully unsettling.
on 30 March 2011
If you've seen any of Jan Svankmajer's films before you will not be disappointed - if you haven't, prepare yourself for a deeply disturbing, grimly amusing and grotesque 'take' on 'Alice'. Without compromising the spirit of the original, Svankmajer has used 'stop-go' animation and live action, mixed with broken toys and ephemera to produce a film you won't easily forget and should not really be shown to children (a bit like the book, really). Who would have thought an old sock could be so unsettling?
The "true version" of Alice made all the more dizzying after watching the current Hollywood Tim Burton "remake," then relapsing into a deep fugue of torpor. This is the real deal, a surreal magical film for children and adults to lose themselves within so they float on the plot. Made on a strict East European budget it carefully contains the boiled imagination left unpurified by Disney, the broth allowed to drift downwards into the plughole and then into a world beyond Mickey Mouse pictureland. This captures the weirdness, aiming to enrapt both adults and children in the up, down, in and out of Wonderland.
It is slightly more disturbing than other versions, but not in the slick all knowing sense of adult obliteration, as this gazes upwards. The world perceived from the imagination of the child. Takes a nod to the unexpurgated tales of middle europe, pre Mark Ryden-esque and a prototype of the new Camilla illustrated version of Alice.
For those who wish to explore the realms of the senses
on 22 August 2011
This Czechoslovakian version of Alice in Wonderland is a wonder to behold. Dark, disturbing and at the same time whimsical and wonderful, it is a truly refreshing version of the timeless yet overdone Lewis Caroll story.
Played with spunk by Kristýna Kohoutová, who has these amazing, bright huge eyes, Alice wonders through this twisted Wonderland (a dank, dilaptidated house with too much barbed wire). While Tim Burton had a point that most every adaptation has been a sequence of events, this still holds true, although a line also connects every sequence of Alice's travels, and that line is a psychological line. It's an amazing little film and needs to be in every cinephile's library.
Bugger Tim Burton's visually stunning but lackluster 3D adaptation, this is the definitive Alice In Wonderland adaptation. As usual, this edition comes with the booklet packed with essays and information as well as the DVD and Blu-Ray discs. Highest recommendation.
on 26 November 2000
Jan Svankmajer does a wonderful adaptation of Lewis Carolls classic childrens tale. Perhaps for a more mature audiences because of its disturbing photography and animated ideas. Still nevertheless this film goes without saying that it is a brilliant piece of magical yet truly mystifing production! This a european gem! A must-see and must buy for all Jan Svankmajer fans!!!!