The selection process for the Monday Music Video will vary from week to week. Sometimes it’ll be pure whim, whatever catches my fancy, or just a random roll of the dice. And sometimes it’ll be suggested by something. Maybe something relevant, or just an off-hand comment. This week, an offhand comment by Fogs at Fogs’ Movie Reviews got me to thinking about Hollywood and fantasy — or rather, Hollywood and fairy tales. He was talking about the upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful, and how he hoped it was better than the recent Alice in Wonderland, also by Disney. Now, that had its fans, but I stayed away from it… I’m not a big Tim Burton fan. But the comment got me thinking about another take on Alice in Wonderland, one that is arguably even more surreal than Burton ever got. So here are Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with “Don’t Come Around Here No More”.
The video depicts a particularly nightmarish version of the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Where the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s book is ultimately a friendly character, albeit mad, here the tea party seems almost hostile to Alice, in keeping with the theme of the song. Alice is brought into the party, but the Hatter’s smile seems smug and unnerving as the situation becomes more and more surreal and uninviting to Alice. Sinister overtones aside, Tom Petty makes such a good Mad Hatter that it’s something of a wonder that he’s never been tapped to play the role even in a TV production.
The whole thing plays out inventively, with certain elements being kept in time with the music and others just being weird. From a visual standpoint, the black and white checkerboard pattern, coupled with other black and white elements, makes the whole thing just hard enough to look at to be unsettling. Then it throws in strangely-dressed characters; not just the Hatter, but minor characters so that our familiarity with the Hatter won’t prevent the audience from being ill at ease. Add in constant size changes, and the end result is a music video that accurately captures the feeling of a typical nightmare — of the kind where almost none of it seems like it should be disturbing on its own (save for the final part), yet the whole leaves the dreamer deeply disconcerted.
Frequent replays cause the video to lose its impact, but it’s still a fun video and an off-kilter masterwork that many filmmakers who specialize in the macabre, frightening, and surreal could stand to learn from.