alice in wonderland (hepworth/stow, 1903)


Directed by two of the founders of British cinema, Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, its original running time of twelve minutes made the first cinematic adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s literary classic the longest running British film to date.The one remaining print has been restored by the BFI, and here it is, courtesy of Youtube.

Alice in Wonderland was clearly made for cinema goers who had already read the book, hence describing this version of Alice in Wonderland as a literary adaptation in the modern understanding of the term may be misleading (without prior knowledge of the books, deciphering the events of the film would be quite difficult). Given the film’s length, it would be better to describe it as a series of vignettes from the book. It is perhaps this aspect of the film’s organisation that gives it a peculiar and slightly disjointed feel.

It is memorable for its use of special effects, clearly inspired by the likes of Georges Méliès and the Lumière Brothers.

Despite the BFI’s best efforts, the original reel of Alice in Wonderland was damaged to such an extent that the deterioration is quite clearly visible on the restored print. This however, only heightens the dreamlike atmosphere of the film. Combined with the fact that the film is not a ‘conventional narrative’, Alice in Wonderland can be seen as a forerunner for the works of surrealist filmmakers such as René Clair, Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau.

Read more about the film HERE.

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