Examples of experimental narrative films

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The definition of ‘experimental film’ is somewhat broad. The definition of ‘experimental’ in general is ‘untested ideas or techniques and not yet established or finalized’ and so for a film to be experimental it has to be that little bit further out from typical film cliché then what we have seen anywhere else before, but still in many ways it could be literally anything.

In our last lecture we spoke about surrealism becoming a dreamlike state and in particular the works of director Švankmajer.

Něco z Alenky (Something from Alice)

–  Jan Švankmajer (1988)

I have chosen to talk about Něco z Alenky, a film which I bought from the BFI shop a few years when I was starting of as a keen filmmaker. I had no idea what to expect, but as an avid fan of everything Alice in Wonderland my expectations could not have been more challenged and in a way I loved it. It has always stayed with me.

Alice in wonderland is a classic
Alice in wonderland is a classic. One that I’m protective of. Sorry Jan.

Not just a book but a legacy which he chose to base this film on, Švankmajer could be considered slightly less experimental in this respect but it was his untraditional twist on the much-loved Lewis Carroll tale which I just had to talk about.

He is faithful in someways to the original book. Which is why in some ways I can forgive him. Just like the original it takes the audience straight into a surreal dreamlike sense that makes you feel like a child. It’s worth mentioning that, this dreamlike state is more like a nightmare.

When I started this course I felt that perhaps some of the experimental pieces were not so thought through and even rushed, but this piece is more of an interpretation and for something that has been interpreted many times before it still captured my imagination. Alice the novel can quite easily be perceived as quite a dark read and I love how this was taken to extreme.

Using a combination of both animated puppetry and people the narrative is rapidly unsettling. Alice switches between a creepy looking doll and an actress at one point making the most of the age-old messing with the olde childhood trick. This semiotic ploy is used throughout, making it outright extreme as always for Švankmajer and inevitable memorable. That is what I believe experimental should be.


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