A Dream That Tells The Truth: Alice in WonderlandCulture, Film, Media — By Hayden Butler on March 16, 2010 at 8:50 am
One of the more fascinating themes of the film, and the culmination of the dream motif, is in the “Oraculum,” a scroll that shows what will happen during each day of Wonderland, past, present, and future. The Oraculum is fascinating because of its allusion to a long-standing tradition of dream-theory. In the middle ages, a philosopher named Macrobius wrote a treatise about dreams, categorizing them according to their varying characteristics. One such category was termed “Oraculum”—from the same roots as our term ‘oracle’—and referred to a dream that tells accurate information of the future. As such, when the film refers to this idea, it is making the provocative claim to its modern audience that not all dreams are fictions. In the world of the film, prophecy is portrayed as a type of dreaming, but a dream that tells true things about the world.
A film that dwells so much on dreams would be incomplete if it didn’t include something about what it means to wake up. For Alice, the departure from Wonderland brings her back into ‘the real world.’ This is where the film is at its most profound. Alice takes what she has learned about herself and the world during her time in Wonderland and lets it meaningfully inform how she thinks and acts. It is in this that the film vindicates the fanciful and pays homage to the positive impact that wonder can have. Without spoiling the plot, the film ends with the sentiment that all the greatest people of history were dreamers, were half-mad, were willing to live with one foot in our world and one in Wonderland.
Alice in Wonderland is about how the imagination can tell us truth; it is a dream that shows us something real. It joins a respectable tradition of Christian thinkers who thought that our imaginations are a gift, something that can teach us and add to our joy. To put it simply, Alice in Wonderland helps us to practice wonderment, to see the seemingly impossible beauty in the world around us. ‘