Blancanieves, a film by Pablo Berger

blancanievesBack cover copy: “Once upon a time there was a girl named Carmen, who never knew her mother. She learned the art of her father, a famous bullfighter, but was hated by her evil stepmother.

One day she ran away with a troupe of dwarves, and became a legend. A re-telling of the classic, “Snow White”, Biancanieves is a breathtakingly beautiful homage to the black-and-white Golden Age of European silent cinema, set in a romanticized 1920’s Seville.”

Rated: PG-13
Run time: 104 min.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Think of this as a gorgeous black and white historical retelling of Snow White. It’s a silent film set in an idealized 1920’s Seville, melancholy, romantic, dark, sometimes erotic, and ambiguous story.

I love the creativity of making the dwarves a circus troupe and how the ‘evil stepmother’ is explained as a beautiful young woman who marries a famous, rich man whose fortune declines, and the subsequent jealously of his affection for his child.

While the Victorian era Snow White has plenty of dark moments, the fantasy setting glosses over the stepmother’s attempts to kill Snow White — no matter what she tries, we’re confident that the dwarves will get there in time, and when they finally don’t, her prince shows up to set everything to rights. There is no such certainty in this film.

The stepmother is especially heinous because of the real-life setting and as the viewer, you’re never really sure how far she’ll go, or how much of the extraordinary (read: magic) will be allowed. Is this a straight retelling in a historical setting or is there a dash of magic realism mixed in?

I also found it interesting that Carmen’s sexuality is a bit muddied. Some objections I’ve heard to the original Snow White is the inappropriateness of a young girl keeping house for seven grown men (ahem). Carmen doesn’t really come across as being that interested in guys (from my perspective anyway) but there’s certainly a prince figure present, so make of that what you will.

The stepmother’s kinky take on sexuality is something of an awakening for Carmen (looking through peepholes, that kind of thing) and while the stepmother’s eccentricities border on the absurd in the way they’re depicted, they do reinforce her cruel, dominant personality. It should be noted that this is NOT a children’s film.

Overall, this is a beautiful film, an extraordinary vision of what the classic fairy tale might look like in a different cultural setting (and different time period) and I think that making it a silent film really accelerates the emotional quotient since everything’s being expressed through body language, music (and occasionally print), rather than dialogue.

If you enjoy the trailer, I do recommend that you try and track down this film and check it out for yourself. Let me know your thoughts below and have a great day!

Trailer:

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