Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Alice: “Twas brillig!”
Robert L. Fielding
In Alice in Wonderland (108 mins), directed by Tim Burton, with an excellent screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based loosely on Lewis Carroll’s words, Alice Kingsley, Australian, Mia Wasikowska, plays the young woman who doesn’t quite fit into polite Victorian society. Shortly after the death of her father, she shuns a proposal of marriage and ‘escapes’ down a rabbit hole into the world inhabited by the creations of the mind of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson -Lewis Carroll.

In the topsy-turvy world she finds herself in, the bright-eyed Alice soon comes up against the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the grotesquely white-faced Iracebeth of Crims and her minions, who have helped her to conquer Underworld by stealing the crown from her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

The day will come when Alice has to fight the Jabberwock (with eyes aflame) on that day of days, the Frabjous Day. Meanwhile, labouring under a misunderstanding, Alice is pronounced to be ‘the wrong Alice’ – she has shrunk to a mere six inches in height, later to an improbable 20 feet tall.

She becomes the White Queen’s champion, eventually slaying the Jabberwock, the Red Queen’s dragon, that terrorises her subjects, keeping her on the throne.

Johnny Depp adds to his incredible versatility (Sweeney Todd, Chocolat, Public Enemy, Edward Scissorhands et al) playing the frenetic milliner, Tarrant Hightop, the Mad Hatter, complete with magical hat at the usual price of 10/6, and multiple personalities, one of which speaks Glaswegian based upon Rab C. Nesbitt, no less. He fights the Knave of Hearts, Ilosovic Stayne (Crispin Glover), to complete the Frab Day.

The graphics in Tim Burton’s creation are amazing – Carroll would have been ‘wellpleezed’, and the voice-overs from the likes of Stephen Fry (The Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (Mallymkun, the dormouse), Micheal Sheen (the white rabbit), Timothy Spall (Bayard Hamar, the bloodhound), and Paul Whitehouse from The Fast Show (the March Hare) are a joy to hear and recognize.

Real people on screen included the multi-talented but now sadly infrequently seen Lindsay Duncan (Oliver Twist, GBH), and Geraldine James (The Calendar Girls, Ghandi) and the favourite from British television, Frances de la Tour (Rising Damp’s Miss Jones) – all playing the usual suspects in Burton’s/Carroll’s masterpiece.

The question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether Carroll or Burton, or both, intended any allegorical meaning in the production. I took it as telling me to be true to my own spirit, and/or alternatively, what can happen when despots hold sway – I could be wrong on both counts. Only wikipedia readers will tell you that the White and Red Queens represented the Houses of York and Lancaster, to the rest of us, it was what Carroll intended – ‘literary nonsense’ – much beloved by children and teachers of discourse analysis – ‘curiouser and curiouser!’
Robert L. Fielding