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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Alice: Boy from Wonderland"

2015/07/25 | Permalink

Hye-joong (played by Jung So-min) suffers from debilitating nightmares. So debilitating, she has to take long breaks from graduate coursework, and that's just not the kind of thing that can easily be explained to an impatient professor. It's not like she can get a doctor's note either, because the doctors say Hye-joong is perfectly healthy. It's just, some people inexplicably go into comas for several days at a time, only waking up to briefly be terrorized by an inability to separate reality from delusion. What else is there to do except go find a shaman?

Don't expect too much logic from "Alice: Boy from Wonderland". Really, expecting logic would sort of defeat the purpose. By the end of the movie we're finally given a clearly described, mostly logical explanation for where Hye-joong's delusions are coming from, and what the mysterious denizens of Wonderland represent in terms of the fractured backdrop of Hye-joon's memory- Wonderland, by the way, isn't a fantastic location so much as it is a physical one grounded in the reality of dreamscape.

This makes more sense than you might initially think. How many dreams have you had where everything seemed genuinely, inexplicably alien and weird? Now, contrast that to the number of dreams you've had that vaguely resemble real life, except with details that you can't fully remember. This is an important plot point- in Hye-joong's fantasy world, everyone conforms to an actual real person or object. Yes, even the rabbit. I'm less sure about the cat- that might have just been symbolic. Of course, everything in the movie is symbolic so...

To put it more broadly, Wonderland in the mind of Hye-joong isn't actually based on the classic story or even the imagery, but rather a state of mind. Sometimes characters manage to get confused about what exactly the difference is between Wonderland and Neverland. On the surface level these are just two separate literary references, yet in terms of the realm of imagination, they actually represent two very different ways of interpreting and adapting self-identity.

If you're feeling a little lost by all this I don't blame you. If "Alice: Boy from Wonderland" represents any metaphor from the original Lewis Carroll story, it's the idea of going down the rabbit hole. By the end even though we know Hye-joong has gone to a specific, important location, the extent to which the people she met and the ideas she countered were actually real is...well, the ending text spells it out pretty clearly I think. The abcess of memory is, in itself, who we are.

"Alice: Boy from Wonderland" is a bewildering story. This was without a doubt the intent of writer / director Huh Eunhee, who thought the production through so well that she even managed to find a place for the animal co-stars. Whether or not this is a movie you actually want to see will depend mainly on whether you think resolutions should be accomplished by plot or feeling. "Alice: Boy from Wonderland" is undoubtedly a case of the latter, for better or for worse.

This review was written by William Schwartz as a part of HanCinema's BiFan (Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival) coverage.

"Alice: Boy from Wonderland" is directed by Huh Eunhee abd features Hong Jong-hyun, Jung So-min, Jung Yeon-joo and Lee Seung-yeon.

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