I have always been fascinated about Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I think this revelation will not surprise anyone since I have already used Alice and her dream world as a reference several times before. However, I have always thought that no film adaptation did it justice. Mainly because the interpretation of the story that most people do is wrong. This is not a moral tale that tries to teach something important to Alice. It is simply the fantasy of a girl who has fallen asleep while being read a boring text. It’s a game of the subconscious where the few elements we know of her real life (the book, the river, the tree,…) are mixed with her inner fears and yearnings (the fear of death, the desire to grow up,…). Any attempt to rationally narrate that dream universe inevitably leads to failure.
That said, this wonderful stop-motion film is probably the most faithful to the spirit of the original story, being ironically the most visually distant. In the opening sequence, we look around through the room of Alice which is full of objects, mostly mechanical toys. Being a stop-motion animation, we can be sure that all those elements will be reused later to recreate Alice’s Wonderland - hence fulfilling the first law of dreams: all the elements of a dream are taken from reality.
In her imaginary journey, Alice goes through her own room, rebuilding each of the objects to accommodate her inner emotional landscape. The story advances in the way dreams does, not in a mechanical or linear way but driven by the most intimate desires, the most irrational fears, and the most intense yearning. How many times have we not dreamed of something out of reach that, no matter how much close we get, it always elude us? That same anxiety is what guides Alice to chase her white rabbit. Alice does not want to reach the rabbit to talk to him or to strike a friendship with it, she simply needs to reach it, and the justification of that need can only be found deep in the subconscious. In the same way, other aspects of the story work equally dreamlike. For example, there are scenes that repeat over and over again in the same way that dreams do.
As I say, it is a film guided by emotions, some of them are dark, some of them are funny but all of them are equally exciting. The technical execution of the piece, using stop-motion next to real elements like the water or Alice herself, is extraordinary even seen from today’s point of view. In fact, anyone who is devoted to stop-motion has my deepest and unyielding respect.
In short, this is a jewel of the Czech animation that is worth discovering.