What’s this? Another Snow White movie? But we already had Snow White and the Hunstman and Mirror Mirror last year! Make something new already! Not so fast…
In what has to be one of the most original pieces of cinema in recent years, Blancanieves is a retelling of Snow White set in 1920s Spain. The dwarfs tour around Spain bullfighting and Snow White is the daughter of a famous matador. Oh, and it’s also in black and white. And it’s silent. And there are only six dwarfs. Another Hollywood tarting up of a classic tale this is not.
Despite the 1920s setting make no mistake, this is a fairy tale. As someone not overly familiar with the story of Snow White I can’t vouch for its accuracy in this regard, but it does have a whimsical, fantasy feel in spite of the undercurrent of darkness.
It’s shot and presented very much like classic silent films, and in fact, if one didn’t know otherwise, it could convince as 90 years old. The design is impressive and the film beautifully shot. It’s clearly a labour of love from a director, Pablo Berger, who knows exactly what he wants to put on the screen. Particularly watch out for the dwarfs’ wagon (pictured above).
It’s weirdly similar to Gladiator, as Snow White has what’s rightfully hers taken from her, is left for dead then has to fight her way back to the person who wronged her, but in the bullring rather than the amphitheatre. The addition of bullfighting is interesting, but Snow White never looks like the master matador she’s supposed to be by the end, with it looking more like clever editing than training as she plods about the ring.
The performances are also good, particularly the young child Carmencita and her deliciously evil step mother. There’s a smattering of light humour in the clever script, which modernises while keeping the essence of the original story and remaining entertaining throughout. It’s also wonderfully scored, including some exquisite Spanish music.
Blancanieves is a breath of fresh air, and proves that a new take on a fairytale doesn’t have to involve CGI and Hollywood stars with perfect teeth and shiny faces. Could we be witnessing a rebirth of silent cinema?