Close Up

29 December 2019: Take Two: Alice / Jabberwocky


"[E]verything begins with a horrible combat. It’s the combat of depths: things explode or make us explode, boxes are too small for their contents… monsters grab at us…. Bodies intermingle with one another, everything intermingles in a sort of cannibalism that reunites nutrient and excrement. Even words are eaten. It’s the domain of the action and passion of bodies: things and words are scattered in every direction and sense, or on the contrary are welded together into nondecomposable blocks. At this depth, everything is horrible, everything is nonsense. – Gilles Deleuze, Lewis Carroll

"Carroll’s apparently whimsical oeuvre – often taken as “mere” superficial nonsense, or “literature for children” – has been a profound influence on Švankmajer’s Surrealist art. Both are concerned with exploring the dark, irrational depths behind appearances, excavating those nonsensical and paradoxical relations of sense and meaning that underlie our everyday perceptions and apparently ordered thought, and bringing them up to a shimmering, contradictory, animated surface. Švankmajer’s film reels constitute a kind of mirror, held up to a nature that suddenly appears both unreal, and more-than-real." – Ben Hjorth, Senses of Cinema

Jan Švankmajer, 1971, 14 min
Czech with English subtitles

Lewis Carroll’s poem is read and followed by a free-form animated depiction of images and toys from childhood, repeatedly overturned by a live cat.

Jan Švankmajer, 1988, 86 min
Czech with English subtitles

Jan Švankmajer's Alice is a unique adaptation of Lewis Carroll's original vision. Combining a live-action Alice with a stop-motion Wonderland filled with threatening, bizarre characters, the film brilliantly marries a sly visual wit with piercing psychological insight.

Part of our Essential Cinema series