Monday, September 29, 2008

Alice's Face: Part II

Tim Burton's Alice is a newcomer named Mia Wasikowska. She has an almost medieval or renaissance face - something about the placid eyes and nearly invisible eyebrows that reminds me of Boticelli's Primavera. She has, I think, a face people can project onto. It is somehow not self-defining.

I saw the photo of her from the back first and noticed that Burton had gone, again, with the curled blonde locks that he used for both Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow and Jayne Wisener in Sweeney Todd. When I saw the photo of her front, I got a non-impression. I can imagine that the casting department really didn't know "what they were looking for till they saw it". She's not cute, not beautiful, not ugly, not striking, not exactly pretty, but certainly not hard on the eyes - not this, not that - so what does her face say? What does it say to you?

I got the same impression, by the way, upon seeing the casting of Lyra from the film of The Golden Compass.

Maybe casting directors are afraid to "pin down" a face for a fictional character that might disappoint the book's fans, so they play it safe with faces that are somewhat on the mild side?

This is what drew my mind back to Istvan Szabo's comments on faces.

Perhaps Wasikowska, when projected on the screen, captivates in a way I can not yet anticipate. I admit I've never seen her act, so perhaps she fully becomes Alice. (Although, Alice, I will also admit, does not have much "depth"- she is essentialy a self-involved, curious, and precocious child.)

I don't know what Tim Burton's vision for Alice is: Wasikowska is 18, while Alice Liddell, the real Alice the book was written for, was 10 at the time it was written.

It will also be interesting to see who Burton casts as the Duchess and as the Red Queen.

Alice in Wonderland is scheduled for release in 2010 so you have time to read the book if you haven't yet. Here's a little bit more of it for you:

'I couldn't afford to learn it.' said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. 'I only took the regular course.'

'What was that?' inquired Alice.

'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; 'and then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

'I never heard of "Uglification,"' Alice ventured to say. 'What is it?'

The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. 'What! Never heard of uglifying!' it exclaimed. 'You know what to beautify is, I suppose?'

'Yes,' said Alice doubtfully: 'it means—to—make—anything—prettier.'

'Well, then,' the Gryphon went on, 'if you don't know what to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton.'

Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said 'What else had you to learn?'


Anonymous said...

To see Mia Wasikowska at work watch these youtube videos of In Treatment. Wasikowska is one of the best young actresses I've ever seen and should have won any Emmy for her work on In Treatment.

Natalie said...

I do believe there is a book on "The Semiotics of the Face" (approximate title) so you're thinking has more merit than you give yourself credit.

I'm not sure if directors/producers are looking for "blank canvases" or just faces, as you mentioned, others can relate to, especially in reference to a book.

I have no idea.

I never read Running With Scissors but I had heard from people who read the book and watched the movie that Gwenyth Paltrow's character, in the novel, was an overweight, unattractive woman. So Hollywood, in that case, really felt the need to create I guess a bit of appeal with one of the characters.

I think the casting in general will most likely off-set the choice in protagonist, who, probably in her simpleness, will look more unusual than the characters she will be surrounded by. (What is "normal" in Wonderland?)

Also, I think Salvador Dali had done some of the original illustrations of Alice in Wonderland. I don't know if it was him, but it was definitely a Surrealist artist, so the Burton angle is close to the mark (IMHO).