In Alice, a little girl follows a white rabbit into a world where nothing is quite what it seems. Where Czech surrealist Švankmajer’s Alice differs from other adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is that it explores the book’s darker side as well, thereby remaining faithful to the tone of uneasy confusion that pervades the original story. A live-action Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova) inhabits a Wonderland that teems with threatening stop-motion characters. Švankmajer’s visual canniness and piercing psychological insight permeate the film with a menacing dream-logic. Curiouser and curiouser.
W. W. Young’s 1915 film of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Starring Viola Savoy as Alice. Produced by The American Film Manufacturing Company (Flying A Studios) and released on 19 January 1915.
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.