Pablo Berger’s beautiful and seriously dark adaptation of The Brother’s Grimm fairy tale transports Snow White to 1920′s Spain while also unashamedly and cleverly honouring the silent movie era in which it is set. Though comparisons to the oscar winning The Artist will come thick and fast, Berger’s film is worlds away. After a slew of Snow White films in the last few years including Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman, Blancanieves is easily the most original and striking version of the classic tale in recent memory.
In Seville, toreador Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giminez Cacho) is gored by the last of 7 bulls and rushed to hospital. In shock, his wife goes into labor, dying in childbirth and as this breakneck, harrowing and bloody introduction comes to a close Antonio’s nurse Encarna (Maribel Verdu) eyes off the famous widower even before he has regained consciousness. The child, Carmencita (Sofia Oria) is raised by her grandmother, taught flamenco (like her mother) but wonders always about her famous father. When her grandmother dies (a wonderful sequence by Berger) she is taken to her new stepmother, the evil nurse Encarna, for an adolescence of work and torture as her father, now a paraplegic hides upstairs in a grand old mansion.
Before the more staple elements of Grimm’s work rear their head (Dwarves included) Berger weaves a beautiful looking and intense story, filled with clever camera work and searing hot black and white photography. The silence is a great focus puller to the imagery and Oria is endlessly watchable as our Snow White. Banished to the forest she begins to learn her true talent as a bull fighter with the help of seven travelling little folk and even in the clichéd realm of fairy tale Berger and his team rarely drop the ball, twisting Blancnieves into something great. Kiko de la Rica’s vibrant photography is worth the price of a ticket alone.
Kinetic, moving and desperately sad, Berger draws out the darkness of the tale in a unique setting, altering with gusto and sticking by his vision defiantly which includes a surprisingly downbeat ending. Blacanieves wont be seen by a mainstream audience but as a truly original retelling it’s hard to ignore this striking and memorable tiny epic. Though the money and the ticket sales will of course go to the ludicrous Hansel and Gretel this is the only fairy tale worth watching this month.