down the rabbit hole: revisiting and re-imagining Alice in Wonderland

Remember this version of Alice in Wonderland? (image courtesy of livejournal)

Today’s post is a round up of links related to Alice in Wonderland, and current as well as past revisions to the story and characters.

What prompted this post was an article by NPR yesterday that focuses on a new novel by Melanie Benjamin titled Alice I Have Been. In the novel Benjamin envisions the life of Alice Liddell, the actual girl who served as inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland, and imagines how it must have felt to Liddell to be immortalized (and in a sense forever conflated) with the fictional Alice. According to the reviewer the novel deals with tricky issues such as Liddell’s relationship to Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), who is rendered as a “gentle ancestor of Lolita‘s Humbert Humbert.” This seems appropriate given the Carroll’s predilection for photographing young girls, including photographing Liddell as a gypsy waif at the age of seven. For anyone interested in reading more on Lewis Carroll or looking at some of his photographs, the Harry Ransom Center has an online exhibit available here.

Left to right: Edith, Lorina and Alice Liddell, ca. 1858. Alice was six years old. (image and caption courtesy of the HRC)

Benjamin isn’t the only one re-imagining Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. This spring Disney Pictures will release Tim Burton’s film version of Alice in Wonderland. According to wikipedia Burton’s film acts as a sequel to Carroll’s stories and follows a now 19-year-old Alice as she chases after the White Rabbit and once again falls down a rabbit hole. The trailer (which you can see here, since Disney pictures doesn’t allow anyone to embed their youtube clips) showcases the usual Burton touches of fantastic color and scenery (see the image below) and his usual cast of actors including Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

An image from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (image courtesy of

While I’m interested in Burton’s version, I have to say that one of the best (and one of my favorite) renderings of Alice in Wonderland on film was directed by Jan Švankmajer, a Czech surrealist artist whose work has influenced Burton, Terry Gilliam, and others. Simply titled Alice, Švankmajer’s film relies on animation – especially stop-animation – to tell an eerie version of the familiar classic. I first saw Švankmajer’s version in a film class as an undergrad at community college. The semester long class was devoted to film depictions of childhood and youth, and Alice fit right in alongside Ghostworld and 400 Blows. My professor’s version of the film was dubbed, which only added to the overall unsettling aspect.

While Burton’s film will no doubt dazzle, Švankmajer’s version terrifies because it so austere and quiet. Moreover, Alice is able to highlight the sexual tensions and overall sexual ickiness that lurks within the original story, especially since Švankmajer decided to have Alice be a very young girl, as opposed to a teenager. To get a greater sense of the film I recommend reading the AV club’s review, in which they recently added the film as part of their New Cult Cannon. I’ll also leave you with this clip from Alice and let you compare this version and Burton’s upcoming feature. For more on Švankmajer’s films I recommend reading this post from my friend Caitlin over at Dark Room.

~ by actyourage09 on January 28, 2010.

4 Responses to “down the rabbit hole: revisiting and re-imagining Alice in Wonderland”

  1. HThanks so much for linking up our articles! I’ve yet to see “Alice” (it’s been on my list for some time), but I’ll have to bump it up the list.

    Great post! I heard the NPR review of “Alice I Have Been” and was intrigued. I’m also interested in Burton’s version, particularly because it stars Mia Wasikowska, an amazing young actress who really stole the first season of the HBO series “In Treatment.”

    Keep up the good work!


  2. Hey Caitlin thanks for the comment. I haven’t seen In Treatment – it’s on my ever growing list of tv shows to netflix – but I’m excited to see Mia Wasikowska. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. […] such as the Alice in Wonderland teaser below (for more on Alice, see my friend Kristen’s post from her blog Act Your […]

  4. […] such as the Alice in Wonderland teaser below (for more on Alice, see my friend Kristen’s post from her blog Act Your […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: