By Simon Miraudo
March 18, 2013
(Republished March 3, 2014)
Blancanieves is the third adaptation of the Snow White fable we've seen in just 12 months. Though it's been a boon for the little people acting guilds, audiences are surely starting to tire of seeing the same story over and over again (one that's been ingrained in them since childhood, no less). Hopefully their patience can extend a little longer, because Pablo Berger's exquisitely photographed, black-and-white silent flick is the best of the recent lot. Unlike that other modern silent endeavour - The Artist - Berger knows how to use visual language alone to tell his story. This is a treat for fans of cinema, at any age.
Staying away from the CGI-laden grimness of Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman, and steering clear of the pantomimic nuttiness of Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror, Blancanieves is a darker, more tender telling than we're used to. Berger transports the tale to Spain, where the daughter of a famed bullfighter and a deceased singer must contend with a wicked step-mother. We spend most of our time prior to the death of our protagonist's father. By comparison, those two aforementioned movies quickly convey that period in the prologue.
Young Carmen (Sofía Oria) is repeatedly punished for spending time with her maimed father, Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho), by his malicious wife - and former nurse - Encarna (Maribel Verdú). She grows older (and into the bewitching Macarena García), inspiring the murderous Encarna to cast her out of the giant estate. Almost killed by a snivelling, sexually-debased footman (Pere Ponce), Carmen is rescued by a band of travelling dwarves. Her memory gone, she agrees to be called 'Blancanieves' - meaning 'Snowhite,' just like the girl from the fairy tale! - and makes a name for herself with her uncanny, preternatural bullfighting talents.
Though it sticks closely to the script, Blancanieves strays from previous Snow Whites in a couple of interesting ways. The first is the absence of a Prince Charming; at least, the kind we'd expect. Instead, she falls for the endearing Juanín (Jinson Añazco), the dwarf who saves her life (there are also only six dwarves, though they happily advertise themselves as being a septet). The second notable difference is the evolution of our hero from a princess to a toreo. Though I find bullfighting to be a totally repugnant spectacle, at least here it gives our leading lady a bit more agency than simply being born into royalty. Both Oria and García are fabulous as the title character, while Verdú offers up a more layered "evil witch" than we've perhaps ever seen depicted. The final sequences - including the odd, unsettling epilogue - are truly beautiful, shot stunningly by Kiko de la Rica and scored by Alfonso de Vilallonga. And all of it is wordless. That's magic.
Blancanieves will be available from Quickflix on March 6, 2014.