Neco z Alenky: Went asked Alice, but still confused

Neco z Alenky had many things going for it from the synopsis I read. Lewis Carroll, central European cinema, and stop-motion animation: are those not individually the very essence of awesome? I must confess, the result was far, far darker than I would have imagined. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is whimsical and charming. Jan Švenkmajer’s film has little whimsy and no charm. The result is, to say the least, different, but intriguingly so.

Two strong points in favor of this adaptation: first, the technical aspects are spot-on for a specific unconventional but clearly intended feel. The settings, and the camerawork, are bleak and, even more importantly, claustrophobic (we will revisit claustrophobia when/if I write about Tma/Svetlo/Tma). The stop-motion is a bit crude, but cut it a break: it was in the 80’s and on a limited budget. The second, and perhaps more impressive positive is the extent to which aspects of the source material come through in this rendition. That the source material is recognizable at all is notable, since Neco z Alenky diverges fairly radically in tone from Alice in Wonderland; while Alice does have disturbing aspects, these are generally secondary to its lighthearted spin, and focusing on the disturbing aspects is (a) not done and (b) difficult to pull off in a non-gimmicky way. It works here: really it does. Somehow, the ghoulish trappings of each character work well and play off the actual aspects of that character. The Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar were in particular good, and I liked how the Caterpillar was introduced in what seemed to be a somewhat irrelevant sequence.

So what didn’t I like? Probably more than anything else, the one thing which could disappear and make the film a lot better is every single close-up on Alice’s lips. The metatextual commentary is cute at the beginning, but by the end of the film it’s just tedious.

Oh, one random comment I have to make that doesn’t fit anywhere in particular: I’m amused that the cards are not from a traditional 52-card deck, but a William Tell. That’s so central European.

So, in short, it’s not actually Alice at all, but it’s all sorts of Alice-like awesomeness.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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