It can only be described as torture! Pure, unadulterated, pain-inflicting torture. My brain was sent into a frenzy of excitement when I laid eyes on the first pictures (released June 22) of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland adaptation. And then the anticlimax of a lifetime! The film is to be released in March of next year. Let me repeat that: the film is to be released in March of next year. How am I supposed to handle the suspense after glimpsing the film’s spectacular Burtonesque vision? The waiting is torture. Pure, unadulterated, pain-inflicting torture.
Burton’s film is to be shot in a mix of live action and performance capture CGI and has been described as “dark as all hell, lurid, and unearthly”. Tim Burton has the great ability to provoke the sinister aspects of a narrative into the forefront of his films with his characteristically fantastical and beautifully creative cinematic expression – as he did so well in his version of the great children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Author Roald Dahl is known for his macabre short stories as well as his persona as famous children’s author. But his penchant for immersing his writing in the darker side of human nature in his adult fiction certainly does not escape his children’s tales. Dahl’s children’s fiction provides a poignant social commentary and exposes his wickedly warped sense of humour. Dahl draws on the archetypes of good and bad – usually personified by an adult villain/villainess and a mistreated child who rises as a moral avenger. The black comedy intrinsic to Dahl’s narrative style makes the absurd, and often grotesque, scenarios that play out floor-droppingly hysterical. Inherent in the author’s great gift for story telling are caustic observations, particularly relevant to social context. This is most evident in Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes collection in which fairytales are retold in the Dahl style we have come to know and love, and amidst the hysterically black humour (and in relation to the history of fairytale narrative) emerges a social comment on gender relationships. Burton identifies with the absurd, and the director and Dahl are thus kindred spirits in many ways. It is both artists’ appreciation for satire, exaggerated artistic expression and the ludicrous that makes Burton’s individual interpretation of Willy Wonka acceptable. He has kept true to the tone of Dahl – weird and subversive. I can only imagine (and hope) that Burton’s Alice will be created in a similar vein. Lewis Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) has written the Alice Adventures with deep symbolic connotations and historical references. Similarly to Dahl, Carroll’s works are satirical and darkly humorous – a perfect playground for the likes of Burton.
Burton’s film is based on Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and will feature a host of characters from each novel. The director has partnered with old favourites: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee, who portray The Mad Hatter, The Red Queen and the Jabberwocky respectively. A host of exciting castings permeate the rest of the film, including Stephen Fry as the Cheshire cat, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Matt Lucas as Tweedledum and Tweedledee and newly discovered 19-year-old Australian actor Mia Wasikowska. With the Burtonesque style and tone laying claim to one of the world’s most loves stories; the result can only be magical.