The Artist (2011) showed that if done properly there remains an audience for the silent film genre. Blancanieves (2012), by Pablo Berger, grabs that audience and re-tells a creative Spanish version of the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Blancanieves tells the story of a young girl, Carmencita (Sofía Oria), who was set to be born under the best of circumstances. Her father was the most famous Spanish bullfighter in Seville during the 1920s, while her mother was deeply in love and pregnant with their first child. Everything was set for Carmencita, but how quickly things can change.
Due to bad luck, the new-born Carmencita is looked after by her eccentric grandmother. Her life begins normally enough – dancing in the garden with her grandma, passing the days playing with her pet chicken. But then tragedy strikes, and she has no one left in her life. Thinking she has no family or friends, she is forced to live with her evil stepmother. After a long trial, the young girl grows up and breaks free of her stepmother’s grasp. I won’t give away too many details about the re-told fairy tale, because that is half the fun of watching this film, but I will say that Maribel Verdu plays the stepmother role brilliantly. Her charm and beauty blinds everyone around her, but her actions are meaner than words. Most appropriate, for a silent film.
With any silent film, it takes a few minutes to allow your brain to prepare for this format. You have to allow the music to become the film’s voice and prepare for the breaks in scenery for the dialogue. Once you tolerate the tempo, the film begins to flow and you are able to appreciate the intricacies included within the film. For me, it took about ten minutes into the film before I lost the sense that I was watching a silent film.
For a lot of people, they refuse to watch foreign films due to the fact that they’ll need to read subtitles. Then again, there is the moviegoer that won’t see a silent film because it’ll take effort to watch it as well. Put the two together, and there’s the potential for grumbling. Therefore, if I recommend a Spanish silent film about a bull fighting Snow White, I’ll get a response to the effect of: ‘Are you seriously recommending this?’ Hear me out for a second – there are bull-fighting dwarfs, crazy dancing grandmas, evil stepmothers, and even S&M scenes. What else could you possibly want?
So, am I seriously recommending a silent foreign film about a bullfighting Snow White? Absolutely!
104 mins. In Spanish.