Animated Movies, Indie-mation, Live Action, Live Action, Reviews

Indie-Mation Club Week 17: ‘Alice’ (Neco z Alenky) Review

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Jan Svankmajer’s Alice or Neco z Alenky in Czechoslovakia, is a surreal, stop-motion masterpiece, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Full of taxidermy, tacks, and taxing situations, this movie is at times uncomfortable and weird, but at the same time, it’s completely unique, creative, and, in its own way, amazing.

For the two people out there who may not be familiar with that story that this movie is based on, Alice in Wonderland follows the adventures of a little girl who follows a white rabbit into a magical land filled with strange creatures and odd characters who lead her on a surreal adventure. And aside from some similar story beats and characters, Jan Svankmajer’s Alice is just about as different from Alice in Wonderland as The Lion King is from Hamlet.

For starters, the white rabbit is not a creature that Alice spots while outside with her sister, but a reanimated taxidermied corpse of a rabbit that Alice had on display in her room for some reason. The rabbit leads her, not to a rabbit hole, but out into a barren field where they crawl into the drawer of what appears to be a small bedside table.

This drawer eventually leads her to a ‘magical’ world filled with animated skeletons, living socks, and bizarre food items that may or may not be alive and/or dangerous. She is turned into a living doll, attacked by animal skeletons, trapped in a cocoon, and threatened by the homicidal queen of deck of cards, who literally (but non-graphically) beheads several characters onscreen.

For those who haven’t watched many weird or surreal movies, this one is probably uncomfortable and maybe even disturbing to watch. I myself still haven’t figured out exactly how I feel about the film, and I’ve watched it multiple times. I love the creativity of the film, and the little girl who plays Alice in the live-action scenes is a brilliant actress. Completely serious, but still as curious as you would expect a kid her age to be.

However, at the same time as I appreciate the artistry and the creativity that went into this movie, it’s just so weird, that I don’t really feel like revisiting it very often. The only way I really enjoy watching it is to show it to someone who has no idea what they’re getting themselves into and then watch their reactions as the incredible strangeness unfolds. I did this with my cousin last year as we prepared to review it for my YouTube channel, and I have to say I enjoyed myself so much more watching it with her than I did watching it on my own. It really is a great movie to watch with friends.

If you haven’t seen this movie, or have no desire to after this review, I can’t say I blame you, it is definitely not for everyone. But if you like surrealism, weird visuals, foreign films, and stop-motion animation, or are just looking for something completely different to do with your friends, then Jan Svankmajer’s Alice could be the perfect film for you.

Have you seen Alice? Let us know your thoughts below!

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.