BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A gothic interpretation of Alice in Wonderland using stop-motion animation.
PROS: Imaginative and visually stunning
CONS: Close-ups on Alices’ lips as she narrates got a little annoying; Perhaps not for very young children
BOTTOM LINE: This very surreal, gothic version of Alice in Wonderland is one that I’ll watch over and over.
I rented this because it had received high ratings on Netflix. I’d never heard of it, or the directory Jan Svankmajer, who I later learned is one of the masters of stop-motion and a source of inspiration for the likes of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.
Stop motion animation is used throughout the movie for all of the story’s characters, most of whom are sawdust-filled stuffed animals. The white rabbit, for instance, is continually losing sawdust and must stop to eat more, sew himself back up, etc. Even small-Alice turns into a porcelain doll and is animated.
I found the use of sound also very effective. I swear that the creepy chomping sound that the white rabbit makes eating sawdust will haunt my dreams forever.
Speaking of dreams, the movie flows not like a story, but rather between disjointed scenes, like a dream. And like a dream many of the scenes and sets don’t make sense. For instance, there’s a house made with wood blocks that, as Alice walks in, transforms into a rabbit cage, and then as she walks through a door transforms again into a bedroom.
Another scene with the Mad Hatter and March Hare was like one of those strange cyclical dreams where some crazy thing happens over and over and you’re powerless to stop it. The Mad Hatter is an old wood puppet that repeatedly asked for a clean cup for his tea as he pours tea from his filthy cup on himself, further staining his already terriby soiled beard.
Alice herself is the voice for all of the characters. No attempt is made to use anything but her normal voice, but whenever she voices a character other than herself, there’s a cut to a close-up on her lips saying “the White Rabbit said” or “said the Queen of Hearts.” This seemed bizzarre at the beginning of the film, but after 30-40 times it became Major League annoying.
I would say that the movie isn’t for very small children. The whole experience is a little eerie (some of the creatures have bare skulls for heads, you see a mouse get killed in a trap, etc.) However, for older children and adults that want to see a far less sterilized version than Disney presents, this is definitely worth checking out. I’ll be buying this movie and I’ve added his other animated films to my Netflix list.