A taxidermy lizard with just a skull for a head moseys up a latter that leads to a dollhouse. This dollhouse has a young girl inside it, who is cramped into one of its bedrooms. Bill, the taxidermy lizard, goes down the chimney, but Alice, the young girl, kicks him up and out of the chimney before he can enter the room with her. Bill flies across the room and hits the floor. He hits it hard enough that sawdust spills from his belly. The White Rabbit sews him back up and funnels his lost sawdust back into him through his mouth.
Tumultuous scenes such as this one are commonplace in Jan Švankmajer’s Alice. The film follows Alice as she progresses through an alternate reality.
Her journey starts when she’s alone in her room, throwing rocks into her tea cup to curb her boredom. We can hear the clock ticking, the hum of the lights, and the creaking of floorboards. Then Alice sees a taxidermy rabbit begin to move in its glass container. Alice continues to watch him as he breaks free from the container—he bites off the nails that were holding him in place and breaks his glass walls. He then puts on a coat, hat, and gloves, and enters Wonderland. We and Alice follow behind him.
OVID.tv Presents an Unexpected and Unsettling Take on the Alice in Wonderland story
This film has a much more unsettling take on the Alice in Wonderland story than most are likely used to. This Wonderland is much different than one might expect. It is full of everyday objects such as dollhouses and desks, and takes place in surprising settings, such as what looks like a dilapidated basement. The film is also rife with taxidermy animals, skulls, and the motif of death. The prominent colors are browns, beiges, eggshell. We don’t see the brightness expected in a film of a children’s book.
All characters in Alice are stop motion animated, except for the main character Alice, though even she is stop motion animated a few times. Švankmajer’s use of stop motion adds to the film’s feeling of uneasiness, in this writer’s opinion.
We see stop motion animated taxidermy animals, skulls, and gory moments such as when the White Rabbit uses scissors to cut off the heads of brawling playing cards. The stop motion feels jerky and unnatural. Even the design of these characters is unsettling—from the jagged, yellowed teeth of the White Rabbit to the sock puppet with a pair of dentures for a mouth.
Those who enjoy the absurd and especially those who enjoy stop motion animated films should check out Alice. There isn’t much dialogue throughout. It is mostly driven by the sounds made by the characters and their interactions with the world around them such as the sound of wiping off a handheld watch, the cracking of an egg, or the creaking of floorboards below the characters. If you prefer dialogue heavy films you should likely steer clear of this quieter film. With darker tones weaved throughout, this is not one for someone seeking a light-hearted film.
Length: 84 minutes
Director: Jan Švankmajer
CAST: Kristýna Kohoutová, Camilla Power
For more information or to watch the film, visit the OVID.tv page for ALICE.
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Images courtesy of OVID.tv
About the Author:
Nichole Gould is a senior at Oakland University, studying creative writing and advertising. She has been published in the Albion Review, Unbound Journal, and has had writing recognized in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She loves reading experimental literature, learning about the craft of writing, and writing fiction and nonfiction. In her free time, Nichole enjoys hiking, swimming in the Great Lakes, and visiting as many bookstores as she can.