SUMMARY: An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
WHY IT’S HERE: Whenever there is a new adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, people generally take the opportunity to bash the 1951 Disney version. So I found while researching this little-seen but highly-praised Russian adaptation of the story. Director Efrem Pruzhanskiy, who went on to direct a version of ‘Through the Looking Glass’ in the same style, has here created something extremely interesting visually. Unlike Disney’s bright and colourful adaptation, Pruzhanskiy’s rendering of the material is appropriately dark and eerie, giving Wonderland the nightmarishness of an absurd dream that could turn nasty at any moment. For all its pale, dull colours and captivatingly grotesque designs, however, Pruzhanskiy’s version loses a lot of points in other areas. Tasked with squeezing the adaptation into three 10 minute segments, writer Yevgeni Zagdansky covers an impressive amount of ground but too often gets bogged down in Carroll’s playful dialogue, which is witty on the page but slows things down to a crawl animation-wise. Also problematic is the weak voice cast, who all trot out their lines with zero enthusiasm, making it hard to get any kind of handle on what Pruzhanskiy is trying to bring out of the characters. The Queen of Hearts is completely non-threatening, her frequent calls for decapitation coming across as idle whims that are instantly forgotten. It’s also worth noting that, in terms of dark subject matter, Disney’s version also trumps Pruzhanskiy’s. For instance, no-one here is actually beheaded whereas in the Disney version we see characters dragged off with this fate in store, never to be seen again. Disney version also has the merciless polishing off of a group of cute oysters by a hungry walrus. Finally, Pruzhanskiy’s version is burdened with a theme-tune so sickly sweet and grating that any sense of foreboding that the great artwork may have suggested is completely lost. I can’t be too harsh on ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as it is an interesting version that I’d recommend any fans of the story to see but for a genuinely nightmarish animated equivalent, go directly to Jan Svankmajer’s ‘Alice’.