Alice in Wonderland
Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in ages. Things got a little chaotic for me around the middle of this year. But, I’m back and I’ve done a lot of reading so be prepared for a deluge of reviews int the next few weeks (some featured in The Challenge while others are just there for your reading interest. So, let’s get going!
I decided to start us off again with a real classic of literature. If people ever ask me what my favourite children’s story is, I don’t quite think they’re prepared for my answer because I tell them it’s Alice in Wonderland. Most people consider this book a little weird, sometimes even disturbing, and I have heard rumours that people thought Lewis Carroll was, well shall we say smoking something (possibly his socks) when he wrote the story of Alice. But, I personally believe that Alice in Wonderland in all its weirdness is just a book:
Bored of the properness of life, Alice follows a white rabbit in a waistcoat down a rabbit hole to a place where everything is a little upside-down. Alice’s mission is to get through a little door into a pretty little garden but her mission is not quite as easy as she might imagine. Growing and shrinking, meeting a whole menagerie of animals and some other strange individuals, will Alice ever find herself just the right size to fit through the door and what will happen to her once she’s on the other side.
Of all the children’s books that have ever been made into movies, I think perhaps Alice in Wonderland is the most numerous. After all, Disney made two Alice in Wonderland movies and they weren’t the only film company doing it. It seems too much to discuss every single Alice in Wonderland movie ever made so I think its best if I focus on three.
I think the very first Alice in Wonderland film I ever knew about was Disney’s animated film with the little blond-haired girl in the blue dress. If ever anyone wanted to let their kids watch a Disney film of old free from all the romance that so often features in these Disney princess movies, I think that Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland is the perfect film. An adventure filled with colourful characters and pretty little songs that hints at no romantic relationships at all. The only criticism I would make is that if you’re looking for purity of story this film might leave you a little disappointed. While the characters featured in the book are also featured in the film, Disney changed the story line a little making it less “dreamlike” than the book.
But Disney didn’t stop with just the animation. In 2010 they release the live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, starring the actress, whose name I still can’t pronounce, Mia Wasikowska (or Wisisikowski, if you’re me), and everyone’s favourite pirate Blackbeard, no wait I mean Johnny Depp (of Captain Jack Sparrow fame). I rather liked this version of Alice in Wonderland when I saw it, perhaps because it was directed by one of my favourite directors, Mr Tim Burton. But, like all Tim Burton’s movies it is a little weird and borders on the very dark and a little scary. It’s also not much like the original Alice in Wonderland story line. Rather, Alice is already grown up and returns to the Wonderland (or Underland) of her childhood nightmares. It’s a great movie but if you’ve got to do Alice in Wonderland for a book report or something, I really wouldn’t suggest watching the film (your teacher will know).
Another version of Alice in Wonderland that I have seen is a version done by Hallmark starring some very famous faces (and voices) including Joanna Lumley, Whoopi Goldberg and Robbie Coltrane. I saw this version when I was little and absolutely loved it. It’s not like the Disney animated version full of music and singing. There are songs but the whole movie is not one great musical. But, something else impressed me more. I was unfortunate to have watched the film before reading the book (don’t follow my lead). After I finally read the book though, I was rather pleasantly surprised. My earliest memory of Alice in Wonderland is this Hallmark version and it seemed to me that the film and the book were very similar. Perhaps not exactly the same but very close.
The one thing I would criticise all these films for, though, is that they all have a bit of the second part Alice Through the Looking Glass in them. And while this is not a train-wreck, it does get confusing when you haven’t read the second part and episodes from it crop up in the movie. So, as I always say (together now): READ THE BOOK FIRST! 😉
In My Humble Opinion:
Alrighty, so those of you skeptics out there might be wondering how I can read the Alice in Wonderland books or watch the films when really they’re downright disturbing for some people. I honestly cannot tell you how many people have either been freaked out by Alice in Wonderland (the book mostly) or told me that Lewis Carroll was on drugs.
Frankly, I have no comment on the “drug” situation. I didn’t know Lewis Carroll (obviously) but even if I did, I’m not sure whether I would have known if he was an addict. But, from a writer’s perspective, I can (if truth be owned) see where he’s coming from. The fact remains (and I don’t think I’ll be giving too much away for anyone who’s seen the films) that the story of Alice in Wonderland is a dream. In every creative writing thing (class, blog, article etc) I’ve ever done, the one rule is never end the story by waking your character up from a dream. All creative writers agree that doing that is a sure-fire way to rile your readers.
But, to me, Lewis Carroll’s idea of the dream works and it works because his entire story is a dream and not reality. The most annoying book to read is one where all the events could happen but, in the end, a character dreamed it all. It leaves one feeling nothing but disappointed because they’d believe the events. But, Alice in Wonderland is not like that. I mean how many of us are likely to follow a rabbit in a waistcoat down a hole into a world where playing cards are alive and animals can talk. It’s ludicrous! It’s a dream.
I cannot tell you how many bizarre dreams I’ve had in my life (not usually ones where animals can talk but I do have dreams where people regularly morph into other people). I think all dreams have a tendency to be bizarre. A well-known psychology fruit loop (in my opinion, he was mad) Sigmund Feud once explained that our dreams are an expression of our subconscious desire. And while his dream analysis was completely ridiculous, this theory does make one good point. Sometimes we have situations plaguing our mind. Perhaps we’re not aware of it, perhaps we’re not even thinking about it. But, there it is, buried deep in the back of our minds, being kept nicely in check to prevent us from going insane. Yet, when we’re asleep, our brains are no longer keeping those thoughts in check. So, even the thoughts we haven’t had for years come out. And if your brain is anything like mine, the thoughts come out all weird and distorted – a bit like the story of Alice in Wonderland.
And that’s what I love about Alice in Wonderland. It makes sense because it is a dream – because you know that Cheshire cats can’t really disappear except in dreams and it’s easy to move from one space to another in the dream world. Lewis Carroll took all those jumbled up and morphed ideas and placed them in a book that screams of a dreaming adventure. But, if you’re hoping now to go and do a Freudian dream analysis on the book to discover what the meaning behind the book is, let me stop you now. There is no meaning behind the book. While the Disney animated movie teaches children to remain children and not to grow up to quickly, the Disney live-action movie teaches people of all ages to be who they are and the Hallmark edition teaches people to face their problems. the book doesn’t really have any life-lesson, except perhaps for other writers.
For writers, the book teaches you to let your inhibitions go. So many writers get bogged down by writing a story that adheres to conventions: write a story that has a moral; write a story with a good plot; write an original story; write a story that will be meaningful to people; write a story for a genre. And with all these conventions, somehow the creativity of the author gets lost. They’re not allowed to explore their creativity for fear that there won’t be a moral or the plot won’t be good enough or some people won’t like it. But, Lewis Carroll has proved that exploring your creativity and imagination produces those things anyway. He didn’t write his stories because he wanted a good plot or an original story or a story that adhered to the fantasy genre. Actually, (little history) he made up stories for a little girl called Alice and her sisters which he told to them on picnics and they enjoyed his writing so much that he eventually wrote it all down. And isn’t that what writing a story is: using your imagination to give pleasure to others.
So, with that I say: if you want a little pleasure in your life, if you want to read something that allows you to escape the real world for a while and sends you into the world of dreams and imagination, read Alice in Wonderland. And I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.