The V&A has announced it is adapting its blockbuster Alice in Wonderland exhibition for cinema release later this year.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser opened at the London museum earlier this year, after considerable delays posed by the pandemic. The exhibition charts the 157 years of Lewis Carroll’s tale, exploring origins, adaptations and reinventions.
“A great experience of the show”
Exhibition curator Kate Bailey has worked with broadcaster Andi Oliver to present the film, which will be released in cinemas in October.
The film is being billed as an exclusive private view for watchers, with close-ups of key objects and insight into the making of the exhibition.
Translating the content and experience of the exhibition into film felt like a “natural step” according to Bailey, who says the original books have “cinematic” qualities already.
“The stories themselves are very episodic, moving through chapters and moments it what feels like a very filmic way,” she says.
Additionally, she says the exhibition experience “lends itself to cinema”. As with so many modern exhibitions, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser has been conceptualised “in 360°”, Bailey explains.
“We have an audio layer, as well as video and projection elements,” she says. “Adding these to insights from the artists and designers involved in the show makes for a great experience.”
“A way we can share a broader picture”
The narrative of the film will largely follow that of the exhibition, Bailey says. In many spots, viewers will be positioned in Alice’s shoes as in the exhibition.
In particular, Bailey says she is looking forward to seeing some of the film elements of the original exhibition brought home to their “natural habitat” onscreen.
Some of the exhibition design elements will also make for impressive cinematic sequences, Bailey says, such as the looking glass which exhibition visitors can pass through. Close-up camera shots will also offer previously-unseen angles on artefacts.
As well as following the visitor experience of the exhibition, extra scenes feature interviews with a number of guest contributors like artist Peter Blake and fashion designer Iris van Herpen.
Additionally, the film will explore how the team turned the exhibition into a virtual reality experience last year. Covered in Design Week, the VR experience was a response to the pandemic keeping museum doors shut.
“As a curator you’re always editing and encountering amazing people in the run up to a show, so this is hopefully a way we can share that broader picture,” says Bailey.
“Films are definitely something we’re starting to think about more”
This is not the first time the V&A has turned one of its bigger exhibitions into a film – a screen adaptation of the museum’s David Bowie exhibition was released in 2013.
Nor is this potentially the last, Bailey says. “Films are definitely something we’re starting to think about more,” she explains.
The pandemic has encouraged museums around the world to translate their content online. Bailey says films are a natural extension of this process. “We’re already making digital versions of so many collections, but with a film we can introduce and interrogate whole exhibitions,” she adds.
“Not everyone can get to London or even the UK to see the exhibition itself,” says Bailey, adding that Lewis Carroll’s stories have a worldwide appeal. “Throughout its history Alice in Wonderland has been translated into 170 different languages, so I really don’t think there are many stories more suited to taking beyond the walls of the museum.”
Beyond the effect of the pandemic, Bailey says the ability to explore even deeper through film is another attracting factor. “When we’re working with so many contemporary designers and artists to create pieces for shows, it seems silly not to showcase their processes when we can,” she says.