Posted by: Natalie | February 25, 2010

I Heart Tim Burton: Alice in Wonderland

Let’s be honest, the man is a genius! If for nothing else than for giving the wonderful Johnny Depp his perfect roles!

But on the 5th March, I am anticipating a true legend of movie making genius to be unveiled, the long awaited Alice in Wonderland!! (Click here for link for Official Trailer on You Tube)

This book is a perfect vehicle for Burton’s magic. It’s slightly disturbing content, created with a hint of a suspicion at a world of intoxication, allows the imagination to work over time, conjuring up creatures in the darkness. But Burton does not take the imagining away from you. As he did with ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, he paints the scenes and characters so bright, so loud and so creatively, that he opens up a whole new layer of imagination; he is an overdose for the senses. I have watched ‘Charlie’ numerous times, and used it to teach from, and although I am less keen on the Johnny Depp version of ‘Willy Wonker’ (Gene Wilder plays him closer to what I picture in my head), the world which has been created is so vivid and dream like that it takes your breath away, and you cannot help but be inspired to dream up your own imaginary worlds!

I have to admit, I have high expectations of this film; none of the ‘Big Three’ have let me down yet. Helena Bonhma-Carter is so striking and courageous and, lets be fair, probably slightly unhinged, that I am always mesmerised by her, whether she be having to deal with a bi-polar revolutionary, making human pies, or casting unforgivable curses. She is incredible and I cannot think of anyone more suited to play The Queen of Hearts!

But my ‘future husband’ (sorry Steve, but it IS going to happen, I will inevitably have to leave you for Johny Depp), yet again blows me away, just from the images in magazines. The image of The Mad Hatter is so entrancing and captivating that I could just simply stare at it forever. It says everything that Lewis Carol couldn’t through his preferred medium. The Hatter combines the madness, the hysteria, the sinister, the jovial, the unpredictable, the genius, the eccentricity,  the beautiful and the ugly along with a shadow of hypnotic uncertainty. How Burton has seen this most legendary of wonderland characters is incredible. It inspires words, description, love. It inspires creation.

But Tim Burton has not merely inspired me through his films, but also through his book of ‘children’s’ poems, “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy”. His almost trademark images and illustrations litter the pages of some quite disturbing and distressing poetry, hitting that mark lying between intrigue and disgust! The children in his poems are forlorn, sad, lonely creatures, many of which are condemned to even lonelier fates. It is a wonderful piece of fiction which opens yet another door into this truly fascinating and remarkable mind.

But back to Alice. For anyone who is feeling emotionally numb, or creatively stunted, or generally a bit grey today, I would highly recommend getting on IMDB and looking at the picture gallery for the film. The characters alone are a feast for the eyes, but the landscapes created are something else entirely! I defy anyone to find themselves uninspired after flicking through the photos.

But it is one thing to have an imagination to personify words of another, it is quite another to write the words that inspire. To be able to paint a picture with words is some skill and one that is worth the effort and vigilance it deserves. A flat narrative leaves no scope for imagination, which leaves the book empty and meaningless. The true skill, the ‘big ask’, is a very fine balance; a balance between the painted and the invented. To allow people like Tim Burton to flourish, you have to leave them hanging slightly, on all visual aspects. There has to be enough vivid imagery to put the picture in your head, but a few hooks on which to hang your own interpretations, in other words, some well placed ‘gaps’ in the given information. It is within these gaps that our imagination takes control; these gaps allow the worlds to become our own, the characters larger than life, the story have a point of contact with our own lives. It is the gaps in a story that we fill, in order to make it personal.

Burton, at least visually, seems to have done just this, in only a way he knows how. But even though we may watch his personal take on this remarkable novel, it will still leave us begging for more.



  1. […] | Tags: Children's Fiction, Inspiration, Recommendations Those of you who read my post I Heart Tim Burton will know that I have been eagerly awaiting his newest movie contribution, “Alice in […]

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