Young and Damned Alice in Wonderland
The Young and the Damned
Nowadays, it is impossible to grow up without seeing the classical Hollywood style in films. This repeated viewing of the same arrangements of characteristics in a film help develop our taste. Hollywood has created a style that most have all learned to enjoy. This includes a narrative, a largely single-character plot, continuity editing, and the defining of types of characters. Closing in on one example, Hollywood likes to make children innocent. One film that came out at the same time where this is easily seen is the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland, directed by Clyde Geronimi. We will discuss how the 1950 film Los Olvidados, directed by Luis Buñuel, differs from this classical Hollywood style and causes us to think about what this means.
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice, the main character, gets bored and starts to wonder. She sees a white rabbit and begins to follow it and ends up falling into the Wonderland world. Throughout the film we see her persuaded by characters to do many things. She eats a mushroom because a note tells her to, she has tea with the Mad Hatter, she listens to the Cheshire Cat’s directions, and she plays crochet with the Queen of Hearts. All this time she wants to get home. Her innocence is easily seen throughout all of these scenes. And all the things that happen to her show us that she is easily persuaded and doesn’t always know the ramifications of what she is doing. In Los Olvidados, we see children in the film put in a very different light.
Instead of the children in Los Olvidados being innocent, they are poverty stricken, brutal boys that take advantage of people and do what is necessary to survive. They are related to mindless-animal beings straight away when we see many of the boys playing a game where one of them resembles a bull and the others are yelling at him and hitting him. Another scene shows the boys taking advantage of a blind man by beating him up and taking/destroying his things. These scenes distress the viewers that are familiar with the Hollywood style. The actions of the children characters in this film aren’t similar to the ones seen in Hollywood films. These children act more realistically to the world around them.
One similarity between the child characters in Alice in Wonderland and Los Olvidados is their yearning for home. In Alice in Wonderland, almost the whole film is about Alice’s desire to get back to her home. While she was bored with it in the beginning, she quickly realizes the comfort and acceptance felt at home that she couldn’t find with the strange world around her. She attempts to fill the void with many people in the film, but she always goes back to wanting to return home. In Los Olvidados, Jaibo and Pedro talk about their home life. Jaibo never knew his dad and only vaguely remembers his mother. He talks to Pedro’s mother about wishing he had a nice home with a mother. Pedro tries to gain the acceptance of his mother and the ability to stay at home throughout the film. His mother never accepts him and you can see that, despite his want to live in a comfortable loving home, he will never get the opportunity. In the scene where Pedro is dreaming, his mother gives him a cut up piece of meat. This symbolizes his barbaric, animalistic character that will never be accepted by his mother. His mother never really wanted him in the first place where she was raped at age 13.
One final difference that really separates the two films is the use of ramifications. In Alice in Wonderland, we see Alice try many new things. In each of these actions, we see the ramifications that happen to her and, as the viewer, we feel sentiment towards her. In Los Olivdados, the children beat up a blind man, steal a knife, have sex with other’s mother, kill another boy, and steal food and money. In all these circumstances, we see little to no ramifications to the children. When Pedro is killed, we see his body thrown into the trash and have no follow through to help the story feel complete. It is left to us as viewers to figure out what this means rather than have the director tell us what to think.
This is the major difference between Luis Buñuel’s Los Olivdados and Clyde Geronimi’s Alice in Wonderland. Rather than have the outcome of each ramification be given to us by the film, Los Olvidados is designed to stretch the viewer in to thinking about the meaning of the events and how we shoud go forward after seeing them. Also, rather than the children characters being explicitly portrayed as innocent, they are shown in a more realistic light that breaks the stylistic norms that Hollywood has engraved into the minds of its repeated audience. This is why the neorealist movement was so different. It showed things how they really are and challenged the viewer to make their own connections rather than having it be done for them. Any art should challenge its consumer to act, and this is why Los Olvidados is a piece of neorealist art that transcends time.