How the Reinvention of Old Stories Tells a New Story

The New York Times offers an interesting preview and analysis of the new Alice in Wonderland movie, directed by Tim Burton and opening this weekend.

Here’s an excerpt from the article, a good demonstration of how each generation has a different story to tell, even when repurposing age-old material:

“The books are a kind of Rorschach test, a screen onto which people project their own ideas,” said Jenny Woolf, author of “The Mystery of Lewis Carroll,” a biography published this month. “They are like a verbal cartoon, full of characters who are vivid but little more than sketches.”

In the 1960s that led to psychedelic readings of Alice, exemplified by Jefferson Airplane’s hit song “White Rabbit” and by a much-praised 1966 BBC production, directed by Jonathan Miller and with music by Ravi Shankar, that has just been released as a DVD. In the 1970s a pornographic “Alice” was also filmed, and more recently there was “American Magee’s Alice,” a video game set that features a revenge-minded Alice confined to an insane asylum, with a second installment possibly due in 2011.

“What is really interesting about the recent versions is that they are all a little violent,” said Jan Susina, author of “The Place of Lewis Carroll in Children’s Literature” and a specialist in Victorian culture who teaches at Illinois State University, noting that the goth-and-gore singer Marilyn Manson also has a film project in the works in which he plans to play Carroll. “Since each generation and culture puts its own gloss on the story, that suggests something about our culture.”

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