Šwankmajer’s Alice

Although it was exciting to see Jan Šwankmajer in person, it was almost better to see his feature film Alice from 1988 again and in one go.  I remember seeing it serialised on the television and noting that it was extraordinary but it was nothing to a 86 minute immersion.  What I especially liked is the fact that there is no spare animation to the frame, the editing is beautiful, the story uncompromisingly Alice (although without a Cheshire Cat – who liked him anyway?)  Alice is played by a mesmerisingly beautiful child who is appropriately bold and grubby and inclined to petty acts of malevolence.  The poor old stuffed rabbit (who was created by Eva, Šwankmajer’s wife) kept leaking sawdust from a rip in his tummy and the sight was more shocking than blood would have been in it’s place.  There are socks, false teeth and eyeballs collected to create a caterpillar, fish skeleton’s and animated meat and then the brilliant queen, cut from playing cards who properly snips off heads here and there. 


Šwankmajer talked a little about the background to making the film, his own background (puppets), surrealism and the politics of filmmaking in the Czech Republic.  It was interesting to hear him talking unhindered with his friend (who’s name I can’t find), who was also a surrealist artist.   Peter Hames obviously knows his stuff but was a bit fidgety and unfocused, and the audience were very keen to chip in but the questions were mostly quite long which made them hard to translate and the so flow was generally lost after a while.

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