“Now you will see a film for children — perhaps.”


The surrealism of Alice in Wonderland (a personal favourite) makes it inherently difficult to present visually and, though I like to see adaptations, creators who attempt to make Carroll’s world their own are rarely successful (American McGee being a notable exception). Czech director Jan Švankmajer did not set out to make a faithful adaptation (the original Czech title Něco z Alenky is literally “Something of Alice”) but has produced a fittingly hallucinogenic memory of familiar characters. Švankmajer described his interpretation as “fermented by my own childhood, with all its particular obsessions and anxieties”, and there is a pervasive sense of adolescent claustrophobia to its small sets. Using puppetry for all the Wonderland characters gives them an unsettlingly physical presence beside Alice, with details like sawdust falling from the White Rabbit’s chest cavity each time he removes his pocket watch. The bizarre imagery will stick with the viewer even if much of its intention is obtuse. Perfectly clear, however, is the Soviet political parallel of the courtroom sequence in which Alice is only permitted to read a scripted confession that justifies her execution, but rebels and finally wakens.