On January 1st, 2010, I have started off the new year with an explosion - of embarrassing memories involving the New Year's Eve party I had last night. But I am now compelled to begin with the following mission statement and adhere to it commencing today.
Only recently I have become obsessed with Lewis Carroll's twin stories of Alice - Alice's Adventures (in Wonderland) and Through the Looking Glass (and what Alice found there) - and since reading the books and everything about the books, I have had a keen interest in the film interpretations of the books. What I found in these interpretations was the joy of learning other perspectives, also the joy of immersing myself within the books deeper as I unravel these perspectives. I'm constantly discovering new things - which can be said of just about any novel, but the Alice books are ones I find the utmost pleasure in reading which sets itself above any other book in the place of being my favourite.
In this very blog of mine I feel that it can be used as my medium to completely share my discoveries. In plain terms: I will write a review for every filmed interpretation I can get my hands on. There are rules to set myself, the main point will be to know how far a story can go before you can call it an "Alice" story. There are shows like Lost or movies like The Matrix which make allusions to Alice, but they are not exactly adaptations of the Lewis Carroll books. The SyFy 2009 television version of Alice however has extracted characters and events that take place in the books and twisted it into its own tale, therefore warrants a review. Basically, if a girl called Alice has followed a white rabbit down a rabbit hole (or through a looking glass) then I will want to review it.
I will have a format for every review to follow. It will be in this order:
Relating to the books - to observe exactly how the film-makers have interpreted the very words of the books, and how closely (or loosely) they have stuck to them. I also bring up concerns about the separation between Wonderland and the Looking Glass events and characters, and how some film makers have brought them together under the same roof. I bring these up more out of interest than spite, so bear with me. I will not pretend I know everything about Lewis Carroll, the Liddell sisters or any other person Carroll knew, but I know as much as I have currently read (which is not enough) and use whatever knowledge I can to help explain myself in this section of the review.
Creative liberties outside of the books - observing events or characters that have nothing at all to do with the books, and see how they interact within the story. It might be strange but this kind of thing occurs very often and sometimes they work really well, other times they completely miss the mark. I think this should be explored as thoroughly as the book itself, for it will explain either the mentality of the film-makers, or the logic of Wonderland/Looking Glass much further.
How the film plays out - split into two segments:
Storytelling structure - the pacing and overall dynamic of how the story plays out. Weather it's engaging or boring, comedy or tragedy or anywhere in between.
Filming technique - visually dissecting the scenes in terms of cinematography, movement, acting, dialogue/monologue, editing, music, sound, stage, props, special effects (CGI/puppets/compositing). If it's an animated film I'd like to observe its animation technique and technicality. If there's anything I've forgotten please tell me.
It is important that I remain objective and never use an example of "how I would have done it". These reviews are all about the films themselves and respecting how it has been done. Anything about "how I would do it" will belong in their own separate posts.
Now I would like to list all the characters of Wonderland and Looking Glass for I will often refer to who is included and not included since I believe it's a matter of importance. These lists will help not only anyone unfamiliar with the books (but familiar with the movies) but also help myself to constantly check off the characters and see who's who and what's what. I will often include characters in terms of how I interpret the story, but without breaking my own rule I will write additional notes at the end to basically say that these issues can be disregarded, yet still carry an importance in my mind when writing a review. There are also characters repeated many times, since as I see it that every time they come and go they seem to have a different behaviour. In terms of dream-logic I'd like to think they are different characters all together, this however can also be disregarded if you please.
Alice and her older sister
White Rabbit (down the rabbit hole)
Dinah (Alice's cat)*
White Rabbit with kid gloves and fan
other animals and birds inc. Dodo, Duck, Eaglet and Lory
White Rabbit (thinks Alice as "Mary-Ann")
White Rabbit (voice)
other various voices
Bill (sounds and voice)
a crowd of animals and birds inc. Bill (a lizard) and guinea pigs
Giant puppy dog
Caterpillar (smoking hookah on a mushroom)
Old Father William and his son
Pigeon (crying "serpent!")
Cheshire cat (talking to Alice)
Five, Seven and Two (of spades - gardeners)
the Queen's parade -
-ten soldiers carrying clubs
-ten courtiers ornamented with diamonds
-ten royal children ornamented with hearts
-guests (Kings and Queens)
-Knave of Hearts
-The King and Queen of Hearts
Croquet game - hedgehogs and flamingos
the executioner (an ace of clubs)
The Queen (of hearts)
The trial -
-King (as the judge)
-Knave (in chains)
-the whole pack of cards
-birds and beasts (as the jurors inc. guinea pig)
*Dinah appears when Alice falls into a dream during her fall down the rabbit hole, then she wakes up from that dream when she lands in a pile of sticks and begins her adventure. To me this represents more than a dream-within-a-dream, but more like a new dream followed by another new dream, as if this was the proper procedure to access Wonderland. I would imagine the White Rabbit must go through the same thing. This is all just my own speculation, and the Dinah-dream is often excluded from adaptations. It just occurred to me that perhaps the White Rabbit has a more exclusive access as it's presented this way in Jan Svankmajer's version, I'll post more about that in its respective review. The only time we see an illustration of Dinah is right at the end of Through the Looking Glass, but when Alice has her dream while falling is when I personally would consider Dinah as a proper character of the story, although unseen.
*As I read it in the book, the moment when Alice is stuck in W. Rabbit's house she is interpreting within her own mind what is happening outside, through voices and sounds that she can hear. I love when books use literary devices like this and doesn't just go for an all out visual description of where the characters are and what they see. The book's illustrations depict what is happening outside, but only as it's described through Alice's interpretation. So in this instance, we never actually get to meet Pat in person, other than hearing his voice and knowing he's probably Irish or something. Every film adaptation I've seen seems to depict what is going on outside as if that's how the story actually is, so then Pat now becomes a fully developed character.
Here I'll decide to use the book's original "dramatis personae" and show the characters as they are representatives of chess pieces. This involves pretty much every character of the book, except a few I will add on to afterwards. The "pieces" are arranged in the order Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen, King, Bishop, Knight, Rook.
Alice (replacing "Lily")
Other characters include:
Kitty (black kitten)
Snowdrop (white kitten)
Jabberwocky and other creatures from that poem:
The train guard
Man dressed in white paper
Gnat (tiny insect voice)
a hoarse voice (Horse) followed by other voices
Leg of mutton
if there was any more I missed out please let me know.
Here is a thumbnail sketch I did a while ago. If I had time I'd scan some other attempts I made, but maybe in the future I'll show what my progress is like as I keep re-attempting these images until I've perfected them.
The story behind it goes like this:
I've often said (not on this blog but elsewhere) that if I were to do an interpretation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland then I would leave out any element from Through The Looking Glass. There are many reasons, but the biggest one is that Looking Glass has its own logic which is more self-contained outside of Wonderland, mixing them up will not so much taint Wonderland but more-so on the genius of Looking Glass. More explanations on the separate logics of Wonderland and Looking Glass will come later.
HOWEVER, if I were to interpret Wonderland, perhaps I might take liberties in adding elements of the original MS - "Alice's Adventures under Ground". Now what is in the original MS that is not included in Wonderland? We all know that there are many things in Wonderland not included in the MS, many of the best parts, but if you read the MS much closer it will certainly have a different feeling to it. What I like about Under Ground is that it is much more directed as a gift towards the Liddell sisters, whereas the Wonderland story is more directed to a general audience, but with parts that still honour the idea of being a gift to the Liddell sisters. Oh yeah, and there's also this one small detail, mentioned only once but sparked a whole new world of ideas in my mind:
"And yet what a dear little puppy it was!" said Alice, as she leant against a buttercup to rest herself, and fanned herself with her hat, "I should have liked teaching it tricks, ..."
I thought it interesting, since the illustrations by Lewis Carroll in the MS (which he stated he drew them much later after writing down the words) depicted Alice without a hat. Maybe he forgot about it? Maybe he thought it was too hard to draw? His drawings aren't very good by illustration standards, I could imagine him having nightmares about trying to draw a hat. I remember the difficulties of hats back when I was a crude artist. Then when it came time to write Wonderland, he probably considered the illustrator John Tenniel would be drawing Alice with no hat, so he changed the text:
"And yet what a dear little puppy it was!" said Alice, as she leant against a buttercup to rest herself, and fanned herself with one of the leaves. "I should have liked teaching it tricks very much, ..."
So what is the true Carrollian intent? Did he want a hat, but thought it too difficult to predict visually? It makes sense to me, since Wonderland is set in summertime, a hat would be useful, plus being the Victorian era when it was common practice to wear hats. Or was it more "Carrollian" to have Alice fan herself with one of the leaves? She was shrunk down so small that a leaf would be sufficient to be a fan.
In my mind, I want to see more Alice wearing a hat. I would want an interpretation that other people may not have seen before, and still back up my points with quoting the text to support my ideas (without having to twist words, but just leave the words as they are).
I've run out of time so maybe I'll expand this later.
Scrawled by: Archfriend circa 12/29/2009