Lise Lyng Falkenberg's Point of View

Friday, June 03, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Six years ago in my review of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, I said that the only scenes that worked, where the ones where Burton was true to the book. The same can be said about “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, but unfortunately there is hardly any scenes that are true to Lewis Carroll’s book and besides, the film isn’t even directed by Tim Burton.
 “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is directed by James Bobin, who is mostly known for directing TV-series and Muppets movies, and the screenplay is written by Linda Woolverton, who is behind a long string of Disney screenplays. I don’t know which of them messed it all up, but somebody sure did, as Carroll’s highly interesting sequel to “Alice in Wonderland” has been turned into a rather ordinary story.

There is no chess game to be played, no white knight or Queen Alice and worst of all there is no slighty toves or borogoves or mome raths that outgrabe in “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. Instead we have a grown Alice who is to travel through time to save the Mad Hatter’s family. Yes, his family!
In this film, everybody has been equipped with a background that explains how they have come to be what they are or rather, why the Hatter is mad and why the Red Queen is evil and has a big head. These explanations go against the inner logic in the book where the Hatter is mad, because he is a Hatter and the Red Queen isn’t evil at all as she is not the same as the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland”!

Although “Alice Through the Looking Glass” wants to tie up all the loose ends neatly, it raises more questions than it answers. Why are the Red Queen’s servants made to look like the paintings of the 16th Century Italian artist Guiseppe Acchimboldo, for instance, who used to paint human heads made up by vegetables, fruit, flowers, fish and books?
Why is Time in love with the Red Queen? We know what she wants with him, but what does he want with her?
Why does Time speak with a German accent?
And why is Time both a person and an ocean? In one scene he is depicted as a person, but in the next time is an ocean and the person Time is even travelling through the ocean Time. It doesn’t make sense, not even in illogical Wonderland.

The characters in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” are played by the usual gang with Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and as a newcomer to the ensemble we see Sascha Baron Cohen as the personified Time.
There are no great performances to praise, though, as there is nothing for the actors to work with. The main characters are all reduced to gestures like the White Queen’s hand movement or ways of talking like Time’s strong, German accent, so one has to look to the supporting roles to be entertained.
I laughed out loud when Andrew Scott was introduced as Dr. Addison Bennett who is to cure Alice for female hysteria and I shed a tear as Alan Rickman repeated his role as the caterpillar that had turned into a blue butterfly. It was very strange hearing his characteristic voice four months after his death and I was reminded what a brilliant actor we have lost.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” reminds me of both “Time Bandits” (1981) and “The Time Machine” (1960), but it is not as good as any of them, mainly because it is very superficial and has nothing to do with Lewis Carroll’s universe. There is more to it than that, though, and I think it has to do with Americans filming the European literary heritage.
Although the US is a leading nation when it comes to movie-making, it has never understood Europe’s fairy tales and children’s stories. Where the European stories are mostly dark, mysterious, strange and often unexplainable, the US movie makers turn them into colourful, fun, feel-good stories. Just look at the disastrous screen versions of Pippi Longstocking (“The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking”, 1988), Peter Pan (“Hook”, 1991) and Disney’s animated Hans Christian Andersen remakes.

Only one scene really works in Bobin’s Alice-film and that is the one with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse and the Cheshire Cat cracking bad time-jokes. It is by the way also the only scene that is true to, not “Through the Looking Glass”, but “Alice in Wonderland” although in the book, Time traps the Mad Hatter and his friends in a perpetual teatime, because the Queen of Hearts said the Mad Hatter was “murdering time” while he performed a song badly. In any case, it is much too little to justify a 113 minutes long feature film in 3D, 2D or whichever D!

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is one in a long line of sequels that should never have been made. I can only give it two out of five stars, one for the hilarious time-jokes at the tea party and one for the supporting cast: **

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Boy

”The Boy” directed by William Brent Bell is a horror film that my daughter and I watched on Mother’s Day. We were only five people in the cinema that evening and although it’s probably not the most obvious choice for a Mother’s Day film, it was still an extremely small audience. As it turned out, there was a reason for this.

“The Boys” tells the story of a young, American woman, Greta (Lauren Cohan), who comes to England to work as a nanny for the eight-year-old boy Brahms while his parents are away on holiday. Arriving at the spooky looking house in which the family lives, she realizes that the boy is not a real boy at all, but just a doll. However, as soon as his “parents” leave, things start to happen that makes Greta believe that the doll is alive. With the grown grocery boy Malcolm (Rupert Evans) as her only connection to the outside world, Greta tries to figure out what is going on.

So far so good, but to label “The Boys” a horror film is something of an overstatement. Sure, the doll is creepy, but the film is not. There are a few jump scares, but they are only scary because of the loud noises and the story is so predictable that thirty minutes in, both my daughter and I had figured out the plot including the plot-twist at the end that alters the entire film and makes it down-to-earth, ever-so-boring non-spooky. We were both very disappointed in that twist. Furthermore, the characters are uninteresting and the acting mediocre and who on Earth call their son Brahms, in the first place, as it is a German surname, not a boy’s first name!

After having seen “The Boys” I fully understood why people stayed away from the cinema! The only good thing there is to say about this film is, that it only lasts 97 minutes. Two out of five stars: **

© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2016

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Books I read in 2015

It is spring already and I haven’t uploaded my annual “Books I read in”-piece yet! My only excuse is that ever since November, my daughter and I have taken turns in being ill with colds, flu, migraines etc. etc. At the moment we are both well, though, so here is the blog-post:

In 2015 I read (or re-read) thirty-eight books, mainly novels, short stories, non-fiction and anime in the languages English, Danish and a tiny bit Japanese. No German, French, Swedish or Norwegian this year, I am sorry to say! I didn’t have any books published myself in 2015 because I had a very difficult year with much illness and knee surgery etc. so I didn’t get to write anything. Instead I concentrated on reading, especially books by the two authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Haruki Murakami.

When you see my list of books read in 2015, you may think that I am a big Haruki Murakami fan, but I am not. Some of the first books of his that I happened to read were “A Wild Sheep Chase” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”, which I found quite good so I kept on reading, hoping that the rest of his works were just as good, but they weren’t.
The problem is that when you have read one book by Haruki Murakami, you have read them all. His protagonists are always very ordinary men in their thirties, living in Tokyo. They usually have a job that involves writing (author, journalist, publicist or the likes) and they have always been married, but either they are divorced or their wives have mysteriously disappeared. They all have a cat with a fish-name like “Herring” or “Mackerel” and they all have an underage teenage girl as their sidekick. Sometimes she is thirteen, sometimes fifteen, but she is always crazy about this ordinary, thirty-something bloke and dying to sleep with him (!!). The protagonist then experiences something highly supernatural, which he finds very annoying and he just wants to go back to his boring old life. On top of that Murakami is extremely sexist, as in his opinion all women are spoiled, unfair, paedophile, sex crazed weirdos who act and talk like women in porn movies, including enjoying lesbian sex although they are straight. It is quite awful, patronising and humiliating to read, especially when you’re a woman, I suppose. Worst of all, the books are long and repetitious and outright boring, but I kept on reading and eventually it paid off.
It turned out that Murakami has written two very good books, namely “Kafka on the Shore” and “Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World”. They are very different from the rest, “Kafka” because the protagonist is a teenage boy and “Hardboiled Wonderland” because Murakami introduces a second world situated in a very unlikely place. They are both wonderful novels, I think.

As for Ursula K. Le Guin, I first started reading her Wizard of Earthsea series when I was about sixteen, but I found it ever so boring, so I gave up after the first volume. Now at the age of fifty-three, I went back to it and just loved the entire series! I guess the sedated narrative pace suits me better now than in my youth and besides, it is plain to see that - just like Jill Murphy’s “The Worst Witch” series, Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” etc. - the series has been a major inspiration to Rowling’s “Harry Potter”.
Furthermore, I appreciate Le Guin’s way of building worlds much more now than then, because it is done in much the same way as I have always done it myself when I write. In that way the works of Le Guin remind me of the works of Jorge Luis Borges, as they are both very meticulous in building fantasy worlds, right down to describing the contents of the books in the fantasy libraries and how to read the maps of worlds that don’t exist, just like I do! I didn’t quite appreciate Borges until recently, either, by the way.
Regarding Le Guin’s books, I love the entire Earthsea series and I am very fond of her other books as well, so I’ll continue reading her in 2016. Anyway, here is a complete list of the books I read in 2015. I hope it will inspire you to read a couple of books yourself:

Bergan, Ronald: “Film”
Dick, Philip K: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Dick, Philip K: “Filmatiserede noveller”
Ditlevsen, Tove: “Barndommens gade”
Enomoto, Toshiya: “Japan”
Hollinghurst, Alan: “The Stranger’s Child”
Ishiguro, Kazuo: “Never Let Me Go”
Ishiguro, Kazuo: “An Artist of the Floating World”
Ishiguro, Kazuo: “Nocturnes. Five Stories of Music and Nightfall”
Jensen, Thit: “Den erotiske hamster”
Kirino, Natsuo: “Out”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “A Wizard of Earthsea” (book 1)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Tales from Earthsea” (book 5)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Compass Rose, Short Stories”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Farthest Shore” (book 3)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Left Hand of Darkness”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Other Wind” (book 6)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “The Tombs of Atuan” (book 2)
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Tehanu” (book 4)
Murakami, Haruki: “1Q84”, book 1
Murakami, Haruki: “1Q84”, book 2
Murakami, Haruki: “1Q84”, book 3
Murakami, Haruki: “A Wild Sheep Chase”
Murakami, Haruki: “After Dark”
Murakami, Haruki: “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”
Murakami, Haruki: “Dance, Dance, Dance”
Murakami, Haruki: “Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World”
Murakami, Haruki: “Kafka on the Shore”
Murakami, Haruki: “Norwegian Wood”
Murakami, Haruki: “South of the Border, West of the Sun”
Murakami, Haruki: “Sputnik Sweetheart”
Murakami, Haruki: “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”
Murakami, Haruki: “Wind/Pinball. Two novels”
Murakami, Ryu: “69”
Nakamura, Shungiku: “Junjo Romantica”, vol. 17
Nye, Robert: “The Late Mr. Shakespeare”
Ōe, Kenzaburō: “The Silent Cry”
“Unyttig viden” (ed. Michael Ebert & Tim Klotzek)