30 June 2011

30 June - "What kind of insects do you rejoice in?"

Alice Through the Looking Glass (TV movie) (1998)
dir. John Henderson
Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, 2003)
Steve Coogan (Marie Antoinette, 2006)
Ian Holm (From Hell, 2001)

I find this movie much more satisfying than the recently released Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland.

The first point I'd like to make is that Alice and Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a story that doesn't really have a moral or an overarching theme. It's nonsense. It's clever nonsense, there are some good points worked into there, but it's not a coming-of-age-story, it's not a heroic journey, there's no take-home lesson. Deal with it.

The TV version is very true to that insanity. Unlike Tim Burton's or the Disney version, this film adaptation doesn't mix up Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, which are two separate books. The latter has a very obvious chessboard theme.

In many ways I thought that Tim Burton very overtly borrowed from this lesser-known adaptation. The most obvious carry-through would be the frequent costume changes. In this movie, Alice's outfit changes slightly (beginning with the classic blue dress with white pinafore) every time she advances a space on the chessboard. Here she is looking up at Humpty Dumpty, wearing a lavender thing with puffy sleeves. She makes me want long hair so badly.

Through the Looking Glass is very much a book of poems, including the well known 'Walrus and the Carpenter.' These are the parts I can remember without looking it up.
The sun was shining on the sea
Shining with all it's might,
and this was very odd because
it was the middle of the night

The moon was shining sulkily,
because she thought the sun
had got no business being there
after the day was done
The Walrus and the Carpenter
were walking hand in hand
they wept quite bitterly to see
such quantities of sand

"If seven maids with seven mops,
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose?" The Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
and shed a bitter tear.
"The time has come," The Walrus said,
"To talk of many things,
of ships and seas and sealing wax,
of cabbages and kings
and if the sea is boiling hot,
and whether pigs have wings."

It's a very long poem, if you've read the story, you might recall that this is the poem related to Alice by Tweedledum and Tweedledee. This movie handles the recitations, and the costumes, quite beautifully. My favorite is the one told by Ian Holm. The only one I missed was "You are Old, Father William," which I think was my favorite in the book (having been given a leather bound copy of the collected works of Lewis Carroll with gold-edged pages as a child, I've not only read the Alice stories extensively, but also the even weirder shit, like Sylvie and Bruno, and I think some of those stories were just extra-involved word problems in math.

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