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Taking inspiration from Alice

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Tim Burton has taken the characters from Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, and mixed them together in a new film. There is something irresistible about Carroll's characters - fabulous, yet utterly realistic and reminiscent of people we know - and some we dread.

In the Burton production, Alice is nineteen. She returns to Wonderland when, fleeing from an unwelcome marriage proposal, she again finds herself hurtling down a rabbit hole. (That Alice could fall into a hole twice cannot be viewed as unlikely in a story of this kind.) She will become involved in an attempt to overthrow the Red Queen and restore the White Queen, but only if she can slay the Jabberwock on the Frabjous Day.

That Burton has decided to direct a film of Alice speaks to the power of words and to Carroll's masterpiece, which has never been out-of-print and has been adapted for theatre and film hundreds of times.

The plot has left some reviewers up in the air. But not the acting. Helena Bonham Carter plays a fierce and petulant Red Queen. Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter. Stephen Fry is the "charming, witty and surprisingly nonchalant" Cheshire Cat.

Surprisingly, but somehow appropriately, Burton's ending (spoiler alert), is entrepreneurial.

Not so, Carroll's. He was implored by Alice Pleasance Liddell, "seven and a half exactly", to give her a written copy of the story he had related to her and her two sisters while he rowed them upstream on the Thames. Years later, Carroll ended Through A Looking-Glass with an untitled poem whose first letters spell her name -

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July -

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear -

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream -
Lingering in the golden gleam -
Life, what is it but a dream?

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