Yesterday the Barbican treated its visitors to a rare screening of Alice by avant-garde filmmaker Jan Svankmajer followed by a Q&A with the director himself. Our writer Lauren went down to check it out...
Alice, in part funded by Channel 4 and serialised for day time television in the 1980’s, is Svankmajer’s version of the Lewis Carroll classic. His take on the classic centres heavily around his belief that the story is not a fairytale but a dream opening by saying, 'Now you will see a film… made for children… perhaps' and after watching the film as both a child and adult, I’m still none the wiser.
With a mixture of live action and macabre yet mesmerizing stop motion Svankmajer truly does put his own stamp on the film. Rather then falling down a rabbit hole we see Alice in a lift, passing shelves filled with curiosities and the King and Queen of hearts are actual cards. Bringing taxidermy, dolls and even food to life seems normal is this dream world where nothing is what is seems and the film genuinely does get curiouser and curiouser.
Svankmajer's work reflects surrealism and tactilism both of which he admits where major influences in his work. However during the Q&A he explained other things that were equally as influential to him were his own childhood, his wife and his unreserved imagination. It’s not hard to see then why his often dark and yet magical films have inspired the likes of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.
For those of you who have yet to discover Svanmajer I implore you to do so. With many of his shorts and Alice now available on DVD Svankmajer's work is finally becoming more accessible. And it’s about time too.