"All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide."
- Lewis Carroll, frontispiece poem for Alice's adventures in Wonderland, used as the first lines of this documentary.
(Trailer above: click to play)The V and A documentary Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (co produced by Trafalgar releasing and Sky Arts UK) is nominally a look around the V and A exhibition of the same name. However the commentary and voices used build it into a much bigger picture: a love letter to Carroll's works and their impact on culture. The piece is presented by Andi Oliver and features heavy contributions from Kate Bailey, who devised the London exhibit.
Starting in the Victorian era, with the Liddell sisters, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and the Alice's adventures Underground manuscript, the documentary charts a path from there to now, across 100 + years of theatre, film, art and fashion.
The look at Charles Dodgson and his life is beautifully measured and mature, a rarity in any cultural work which speaks about Dodgson (this and the ARTE documentary mesh wonderfully together!)
Included in this documentary are many impressive rooms and shots from the London exhibition, from a glowing video room comprised entirely of text from Carroll's books, to a seaside pier which slowly changes into the form of Carroll's caterpillar. Sometimes the camera will cut to shots of a little girl dressed as Alice exploring the exhibition rooms in wonder, these parts aren't too intrusive and we get to hear pieces of Carroll's books recited beautifully via a voice over.
In particular attention is paid to how Alice has been appropriated by various different art movements up to the present day. Here we see art by Max Ernst and Ralph Steadman from the 20th century but also Chris Riddell's recent illustrations.
In a way, this piece argues that Carroll's place in popular culture isn't just a place but a way of thinking. As one contributor says "its a way of life, isn't it?"
Overall, a beautiful documentary which deserves to be seen and a beautiful prosperity recording of a very special exhibition.