Alice In A Silent Wonderland

I’d like to again point people over to the Movies, Silently blog, as this week they’ve posted another interesting movie: a 1903 British film version of Alice in Wonderland, thought to be the oldest made. It’s hard to see how much older an adaptation could be, although narrative stories were being made for a few years before this.

The film hasn’t got the wealth of camera effects tricks of Georges Méliès and A Trip To The Moon — a year older than this — but it’s still wondrous to see, particularly since the tricks they do use are effective in adapting a couple scenes of Lewis Carroll’s work. And the sets and costumes are magnificent in that late-Victorian/Edwardian style that just looks so eagerly like itself.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “Alice In A Silent Wonderland”

  1. It seems Méliès had more tricks up his sleeve, as a contemporary but it’s still interesting to see English film making in its infancy. I find it very humbling to watch the decay marks. You can picture the roll of film moving as light peers through it. Movies have come a very long way in 110 years.


    1. My sense is that Méliès was at least in part driven by trying to advance the state of the art of filmmaking, to find tricks that could be done and then find stories that could be hung around them. (This might be why so many of his shorts are either dreamlike or play out like a stage magician’s trick: any narrative is coincidental to showing off something amazing).

      Meanwhile, trying to adapt a story, fitting in effects where they make sense, is kind of a different game altogether. (And I think it shows; Méliès’s least interesting bit to me was a series of dramatizations of events of the Dreyfuss Affair, which I know was important to French audiences of 1900 in a way that I won’t feel urgently today, but there’s almost no room for the thing that made Méliès noteworthy there.)

      The marks of the film decay are stunning too. It takes some effort to internalize that everything seen in these films was actually as alive as you or I, and as brilliant and sharp and colorful on the day of filming as it might be today.


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