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Film / Alice (1988)

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"Alice thought to herself 'Now you will see a film... made for children... perhaps...' But, I nearly forgot... you must... close your eyes... otherwise... you won't see anything."

Něco z Alenky is a film, part live-action and part animation, made by Czech stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer in 1988, called Alice outside of the Czech Republic.

This surrealist adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is remarkably faithful to the original work, condensing most of the dialogue but painstakingly preserving much of the plot. Where it really deviates is in the strange appearance of the Wonderland creatures and in the dreary atmosphere it evokes. Švankmajer's Wonderland is populated by speaking skeletons, sawdust-filled animals, and animated objects. The film is devoid of music, and all creatures are voiced by Alice herself, in jarring cutaway closeups of her mouth as she narrates their lines, and her adventure seems to entirely take place inside of an impossible, poorly-lit and labyrinthian house.

Though well-received by critics, it is not a popular version of the story. This may have something to do with a saturation of both grimmificationed and disneyfied Alice adaptations, despite it not quite falling into either category. It also has quite frightening, but amazing imagery, which has made it a Cult Classic. Terry Gilliam said: "Jan Svankmajer's stop-motion work uses familiar, unremarkable objects in a way which is deeply disturbing. The first film of his that I saw was Alice, and I was extremely unsettled by the image of an animated rabbit which had real fur and real eyes. His films always leave me with mixed feelings, but they all have moments that really get to me; moments that evoke the nightmarish spectre of seeing commonplace things coming unexpectedly to life."

Alice provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: The Cheshire Cat doesn't appear in the movie. Nor do the Duchess and her Cook (the White Rabbit takes their place as the Pig-Baby's caretaker), or the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle.
  • All Just a Dream: Just like in the novel Alice has dreamt all the events. Or...?
  • Ambiguous Ending: Like the novel, the film ends with Alice waking back up in the real world (in this case, in her room). However, Alice notices the glass case that the White Rabbit ripped itself from is broken and the Rabbit is gone. This makes it unclear if the dream is over or if Alice is still in Wonderland.
  • And You Were There: Toys in Alice's room being Wonderland characters was also used as a motif, though in a more sinister way than other adaptations that use it.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Stuffed animals, skeletons, playing cards, socks all come to life.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Alice frequently gets places by going through what look on the outside like regular-sized drawers.
  • Body Horror: The White Rabbit has stuffing coming out of its belly.
  • Butt-Monkey: Alice tends to get beat up quite a lot by the creatures, not to mention being set on fire at least once.
  • Creepy Doll: Alice becomes a living doll whenever she shrinks.
  • Darker and Edgier: The designs are more macabre, Uncanny Valley is often invoked, and the White Rabbit is now the royal executioner.
  • Deranged Animation: A lot of the stop-motion features rather frightening imagery, with a stuffed rabbit being able to walk around on two feet as a prime example. Several animal skeletons are also walking and crawling around. Even socks, with teeth (!).
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice is a most deranged and incomprehensible adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, with its stop-motion animation and mostly silent script.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Various things (puppets, stuffed animals, animal skeletons and even socks) are trying to catch Alice.
  • The Faceless: The sister of Alice has her head out of frame from the camera, while the rest of her body is seen.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: This is how Alice's journey begins. She notices how a stuffed rabbit starts to move from its henges and walks around, then decides to follow it.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Unlike most of her adaptations, this Queen of Hearts actually beheads her subjects.
  • Grotesque Gallery: All the creatures Alice meets are extremely distressing.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The White Rabbit is a stuffed animal that literally comes alive. Near the end of the film it turns out he is the Queen's executioner.
  • Just Whistle: What the White Rabbit does to summon a caravan of friends in order to get a stuck Alice out of his house.
  • Losing Your Head: Near the end, the White Rabbit beheads a pair of fighting playing card figures, but they just carry one without their heads. Later the White Rabbit beheads both the Hatter and the March Hare. They just swap heads and continue playing cards.
  • Mouthscreen: Closeups of Alice's mouth are shown when she speaks.
  • Nightmare Face: Many close-ups of these stop-motion creatures apply. Even Oancitizen in his Brows Held High review admitted being frightened at times.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Alice wakes up in her room and everything seems fine, except the rabbit display cage is empty and glass broken. She finds a pair of scissors in the Rabbit's secret drawer and contemplates cutting his head off next time. Brr...
  • Rake Take: While looking through a closet, Alice gets smacked in the face with a rake, which causes her to stumble backwards and fall into a pot. This in turn sends her down a hole into an elevator.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The film lacks any background music, aside from a piece of music played over the end credits. If anything, the sound effects (such as Alice sucking her finger or scraping knives) are exaggerated and sound quite loud.
  • Running Gag: Alice has really bad luck with drawers. Whenever she tries to open one, she ends up pulling the knob out.
  • Scary Teeth: Socks have teeth in this movie.
  • Self-Surgery: The Rabbit has to do this on himself every time he gets a new set of cuts.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Occurs at one point when Alice is running outside towards a desk in the middle of nowhere.
  • Shear Menace: The White Rabbit performs some beheadings for the Queen of Hearts with a pair of scissors.
  • Silence Is Golden: Long stretches of the film have no dialogue. When it does occur, it is usually in short bursts.
  • Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue: Definitely more focused on the visual side; dialogue is sparse and only spoken by one person, while the stop-motion animation and other surreal images are often the main focus.
  • Stop Motion: Most of the animation is stop-motion.
  • Surreal Horror: The source material was already surreal, but the animation and special effects add an extra layer of horridness to it.

Alternative Title(s): Neco Z Alenky