Blancanieves is a Spanish reimagining of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves story – but more than that it’s the reimagining of what cinema was in the past before the invention of talkies and what cinema should be like when it concentrates on storytelling that’s purely image-driven and cinematic.
The director has bravely decided to retell the classic fable through images alone for, if you haven’t heard, Blancanieves is not only shot in black and white in a square framed academy ratio, but it’s also a silent movie. Far from being a Spanish reaction to the success of The Artist, it not only blows that movie out of the water, it precedes it in terms of development by several years and finds a fresh, totally engaging way of retelling a myth. In this it gives more than it takes and adds new levels of wonder and nuance to this well-known story using finely crafted delicious imagery, a few title cards and some superb music.
Blancanieves owes more to Abel Gance and can be compared to his achievements than to Michel Hazanavicius and The Artist.
But then if you’ve seen Pablo Berger’s earlier movie Torremolinos 73 – a humorous yet poignant story loosely based on a real story about a salesman who makes an Ingmar Bergman inspired feature erotic film – then you won’t be surprised at the brilliance of his vision in his latest masterpiece.
So in this version of the fairy tail you get an evil stepmother played by the magnificently vain Maribel Verdu (from Y Tu Mamá También and Pan’s Labytinth) who has quoted the director of the latter film Guillermo del Toro as saying ‘we must offer the public what they’ve never seen before’ and that’s a phrase that perfectly describes Blancanieves rather than del Toro’s more recent work.
And yes, if you haven’t heard in this version Snow White’s father is a paralysed and badly gored bullfighter who initially avoids his daughter Carmen or Blancanieves played Macarena García by as the bullfighting dwarves call her when they save her from drowning. This is a film about a myth that’s not afraid to create new myths in the process and to set the action in the Spanish bullfighting world of the late 1920’s is both provocative and Quixotic.
This is a brave, unusual, out of the ordinary film – the sort of film that you don’t see very often. The sort of movie that stays with you in your imagination because it was maybe always there, lodged with those stories of childhood that we learned from those who are no longer with us.
Like important long remembered family memories and the history of your country, Blancanieves and it’s black and white images will stay with you for the rest if your life no matter where you go.