2012 saw a surge of Snow White films, but there might be one that you missed. The Spanish, silent film Blancanieves is a retelling of the classic fairy tale set in 1920s Seville. Based on the packaging, you might confuse the film with a new Criterion release, but the conspicuous “C” (squared instead of round) is for the Cohen Media Group. Yet this unique, beautiful film could easily be part of Criterion’s curated collection.
Innocent little Carmencita (Sofia Oria) is no princess, and her father (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is no king. Instead, he is a famed bullfighter who is “gruesomely gored” in a high profile bullfight. His nurse, Encarna (Maribel Verdu), manipulates him into loving her and taking her as his new wife. She soon dispatches of her invalid husband and sends her driver to strangle her now-older ward Carmen (Macarena Garcia). Carmen is soon saved by 6 bullfighting dwarves who inadvertently help her tap into her innate skills as a bullfighter, donning the moniker Blancanieves.
As a silent film, Blancanieves relies on Alfonso de Vilallonga’s score to drive the story. And the score fulfills its purpose perfectly. Also driving the story is Verdu’s wonderful portrayal of Encarna, so self-centered and vicious she almost crosses the border into full-on camp (similar to Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman). And at the heart of the film is the story of unrequited love that the handsome dwarf is harboring for Blancanieves.
Pablo Berger has crafted a truly unique take on a classic story. It’s a poetic film that plays with your expectations about the story. And it will have you marveling at the minds of the Brothers Grimm once again.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The specials (all in Spanish) contain a couple making-of featurettes, a film trailer, and an introduction to the film by Berger. There is also a featurette showing the premiere of the film, which played in a large theatre with a live orchestra (as Berger intended the film to be shown). The 2-disc set also contains a collector’s booklet and a digital download of the score.
"Blancanieves" is on sale September 3, 2013 and is rated PG13. Drama, Foreign, silent. Written and directed by Pablo Berger. Starring Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Macarena Garcia, Maribel Verdú, Sofia Oria.