- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: Czech PCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit), English PCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English
- Classification: PG
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
- Studio: BFI
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 23, 2011
- RRP: £19.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Jan Švankmajer, an artist whose vocation extends well beyond film into a fascination with puppetry, animation, and bizarre collectibles of the Habsburg royals was a product of Soviet-ruled Czechoslovakia. The tight reins of the Soviet regime left this particular artist often banned from working due to works deemed unsuitable because of their surreal content. So, what is an artist working under such repressive constraints supposed to do to get his works past the censors? Why, make his own visualization of Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice in Wonderland, of course.
This 1988 feature mixes the live-action work of a sole young actress (Kristýna Kohoutová) as Alice with stop-motion animation to create a parallel universe, the likes of which I guarantee you have never seen. As Alice says in the opening lines, “Now you will see a film… made for children… perhaps…” Perhaps, indeed. Alice is a brooding and surreal take on Carroll’s work. Švankmajer follows the story rather closely, but his visual aesthetic and foreboding sense of gloom can only be described as “creepy.” From the moment Alice witnesses the stuffed rabbit come alive and follows him down the “rabbit hole,” which, in this interpretation, has Alice falling through the floor in her house, the world becomes an ominous and fantastical universe. Alice, challenging authority figures whilst constantly changing in size – big, small, big, small – like a physical manifestation of her emotional state is even more corporeal here, as when Alice shrinks, she becomes a doll, at one point ripping her “human” self right out of the doll’s chest.
There aren’t enough accolades to lavish upon this wholly original take on this much overdone, yet very beloved classic. Watch it once and it will stay with you for a lifetime.
The film was scanned at 2K and graded in high definition from the original 35mm interpositive held at United Productions Partners in Prague, Czech Republic. The picture was restored using MTI restoration software, removing dirt, scratches, and warps, repairing damaged frames and improving stability issues.
Alice arrives on Blu-ray from the BFI in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement. Once again, the studio have spun their magic and brought a film to life looking marvelously cinematic. There is a thin layer of grain with a fine structure imparting an organic, film-like quality to the image, black levels are rather deep and show detail is strong. Flesh tones are spot on as well.
The original Czech language track and English dub are provided in PCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit).
The audio was taken from the original magnetic tracks and shows some occasional drifts in synch due to all the audio being recorded entirely in post-production. Although the BFI have done as much as they could removing pops, hiss, and hum, there is still a lot of crackle that can be heard when dialogue gets a bit loud.
The strong host of extras includes the first screen adaptation ever of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and a wonderful set of animated pieces by the Quay brothers.
The supplements provided with this release include:
- Alice in Wonderland (1909; 1.37:1; 1080p/24; 9 min.) – The first screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
- Alice in Label Land (1974; 12 mins; 1.33:; 1080p/24) – An animated COI film explaining the 1973 British food labeling laws with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
- Elise and the Brown Bunny (DVD Only) – Early advertising film for Cadbury Bros. Ltd.
- Stille Nacht II – Are We Still Married? (1992; 3 mins.; 1.33:1) – A musical short by the Quay Brothers inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
- Stille Nacht IV – Can’t Go Wrong Without You (1993; 4 mins) – An Alice-inspired music film by the Quay Brothers for His Name is Alive.
- Booklet: This 34-page illustrated booklet contains an excellent essay on Alice by author Clare Kitson, an interview with Jan Švankmajer, a 1988 review of the film by Phillip Strick, filmmaker bio, film credits, and information on the transfer.
The Definitive Word
Perhaps only the Quay brothers’ works can come close to evoking the sort of feelings that Švankmajer’s work in Alice can, which makes it abundantly appropriate that the BFI have included their works as supplements on here as well. Alice is another piece of magic resurrected in fine form by the BFI. Highly recommended.
Additional Screen Captures