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Alice Methodology

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 11 months ago

Alice Adaptation Project: Methodology


Team Members: Salman Bakht, Robin Chin, Sarah Harris, Rama Hoetzlein


Table of Contents

Main Page

Project Description






 The Alice Adaptation Project focuses on the rules of space paradoxically broken and enforced within the Alice texts. Specifically, this project examines the section of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where Alice falls down a rabbit hole and attempts to pursue the White Rabbit through a small locked door. This section breaks rules of space as Alice shrinks and grows and finds herself suddenly in new locations. At the same time, rules of space are established: Alice cannot cannot fit through a door that is 10" high, Alice must eat or drink in order to grow or shrink. This category of rules was chosen because, while represented in both written and film texts, the method of representing this varies between texts. The variation in representation reveals both media-specific techniques and artistic decisions made in adaptation.


The Alice Adaptation Project group decided to perform a systematic analysis that would lead to a creative work. This creative work is a film montage (a sequence of film shots) accompanied by a sound collage (a musical combination of sound samples).



Film Montage

The film montage was created by dividing the section of the film adaptations into separate shots and classifying those shots based on the motion Alice is performing: falling, crawling, drinking, shrinking, etc. (Within this process, a fourth film adaptation was added, the Alice in Wonderland television movie directed by Nick Willing.) This process is primarily systematic.


Then, the montage was created by combining these shots in a sequence. The sequence was not chosen entirely systematically, although a systematic rule was considered (not always followed) in choosing the arrangement. This rule is "matching" on Alice's action, maintaining continuity in Alice's motion between shots. This serves to maintain a sense of continuity between shots, while the discontinuity in transitioning between film adaptations acts to break this rule, creating the element of nonsense within the work.



Sound Collage

The sound collage was created after the completion of the film montage. To create the sound collage, a similar system of classification was used to to divide the audio track in Svankmajer's Alice (primarily sound effects) and Disney's Alice in Wonderland (primarily music) into sound samples. The sounds classified represent the visual action in the film (falling melodies or crashing sound effects to represent falling).


For the composition process, a technique similar to that used in the visuals, creating a linear sequence of sounds, was initially considered. However, this method created too much discontinuity. Instead, the sound samples were layered to create continuity, a method common in sound collage works. The sound collage was composed to accompany the visuals, while allowing for some independence of audio and visuals, allowing the sound collage to act as an interpretation of the montage.



Theoretical Considerations that Influenced our Methodology 


Montage: Russian filmmaker and film theorist Sergei Eistenstein believed that "montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots." He developed a theory called the “montage of attractions,” which is essentially an editing technique that involves the juxtaposition of disparate shots (and audio elements) in a way that “shocks” or elicits a particular emotional / intellectual response from the audience.                                                                                                          


In his essay “Word and Image,” Eisenstein discusses 5 montage methods:


Metric Montage: shots are joined together according to their length in a larger schema corresponding to the audio. Actions within each shot are arranged so that they fit the confines of the length of the shot (thus, the length of each individual shot takes precedence over the action within each shot).

Rhythmic Montage: shots are joined together in a particular rhythm that can correspond to or be in tension with both audio elements and actions/gestures/movements within each shot.

Tonal Montage: using editing and shot content to convey an emotional tone; for example, to shorten the duration of each shot and quicken the cutting frequency to accentuate the feelings of chaos and anxiety.

Overtonal/Associational: the cumulation of metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage for a more complex affect; layering/combining different types of montage. .

Intellectual Montage: combining shots to create an intellectual meaning, an idea, in the mind of the viewer. Example: a shot of fat men in business suits smoking cigars juxtaposed with a shot of pigs rolling around in mud… what idea does this illicit?


Some examples of how we used montage theory in our process:

  • In the middle sequence, growing and shrinking shots were juxtaposed to create tension (tonal montage)
  • During the falling sequence, frequency of cutting between shots sped up and slowed down based on the frequency of falling movement within the frame. It created a particular rhythm or flow.
  • Salman requested that certain sequences have shots of equal length (metric montage) so that he could create compose rhythms in the audio montage.
  • We cut shots of Alice crying with shots of her eating in an attempt to illicit an intellectual and/or emotional response (perhaps it’s a statement on how emotional eating is associated with femininity?.. or maybe it links emotion with consumption…)
  • At times, we followed the match-on-action rule (see description of this rule in previous section) yet at times we broke this rule and juxtaposed disparate shots in jarring ways.


Deformance: In Deformance and Interpretation, Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann seek to bring “deformance” into literature scholarship and criticism. Based on the assumption that language is an interactive medium, and that all acts of interpretation (even close readings) are performative (creative) and rhetorical operations, the authors define “deformance” as:

  • A strategy of estrangement from the “physical artifact” of the text; a play with the original structure or form (the form generates meaning as much as the content...)
  • Taking a stochastic approach (involving the selection of a random variable or variables, playing with chance or probability)
  • “. . deformance sends both reader and work through the textual looking glass. On that other side, customary rules are not completely short-circuited, but they are held in abeyance, to be chosen among (there are many systems of rules), to be followed or not as one decides.”
  • Reading backward is an example of deformance; “a regulated model that disorders the senses of the text” 
  • We cannot predict the results of a deformance
  • Through deformances, “we are brought to a critical position in which we can imagine things about the text that we did not and perhaps could not otherwise know.”


“In this perspective, the critical and interpretive question is not ‘what does the poem mean?’ but ‘how do we release or expose the poem's possibilities of meaning?’”


How deformance applies to our process: We deformed the film adaptations by first, looking at the texts (written, film and audio) as formal structures that could be played with in order to generate new interpretations. We took a “stochastic approach” in selecting a variable (Alice’s body movement through space), and then, we created a montage of the different films based on that variable. We could not predict the patterns or themes that would arise from a deformance centered on the variable of Alice’s body movements. It was in the act of systematically organizing Alice's movements into a chart and then editing a film montage based on the themes of movement and space that arose from that chart, that we were able to glean new interpretations. Afterward, Robin used the structure of the film montage to create a text-montage, practicing a second deformance of sorts, this time on Carrol’s original work. Robin's text montages and Rama's graphing of scale and size are examples of the various "possibilities of meaning" that one can derive from the deformance process (see analysis and reflections).


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