PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Blancanieves / Cert: 12 / Director: Pablo Berger / Screenplay: Pablo Berger / Starring: Maribel Verdu, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Macarena Garcia / Release Date: August 5th

There's a lot to said for silent films. Seductive cinematography. Iconic stars. Tales of behind-the-scenes excess and debauchery. And, best of all, they stopped making them over 80 years ago, so they're easy to avoid if they're not your cup of tea. Except that's no longer true, it seems. Because after the surprise critical and commercial success of Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, we now have Pablo Berger's Blancanieves. Somewhere a Media Studies lecturer is no doubt already busily preparing a module on the Early 21st Century Silent Film Revival.

Blancanieves also slots into the recent “twisted fairy tale” craze, in that it's a version of Snow White, one that transposes the story to the world of Spanish bullfighting in the 1920s. We begin with famous bullfighter Antonio and his pregnant wife Carmen. When he gets mauled in the ring, the shock sends her into labour and she dies giving birth to a little girl, also called Carmen. Initially young Carmen is brought up by her grandmother, but when she drops dead of a heart attack after a particularly vigorous bout of flamenco dancing (a warning to us all, that), there's nowhere for the girl to go but to the country estate ruled over by her new evil stepmother, Encarna. This wicked lady knocks off Antonio and tries to kill Carmen too, but she escapes and, in a state of amnesia, takes refuge with some dwarves who work as a novelty bullfighting act. She has a go at joining in and, being her father's daughter, turns out to be an instant hit.

It's apparent from every frame that this film was a labour of love for all concerned. It boasts exquisite production design which makes use of a dark Spanish Gothic look mixed with splashes of Art Deco, the orchestral score is witty and bubbly, the black-and-white visuals have a fashion plate gloss, and all of the performances are excellent, particularly that of Maribel Verdu, who has a whale of a time strutting about in feathers, jewels and flapper dresses in the role of the sadistic stepmum (and keep your eyes peeled for a scene-stealing comedy rooster who deserves an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor Who Can Also Be Served For Sunday Lunch). The dwarves, too, are nicely done, taking their cue as they do from the Disney version – there's a grumpy one, a dopey one and a tranny one (wait... what?). Unfortunately, where the silent film gimmick made sense in The Artist (a silent film about a star of silent films), here it feels affected, especially when combined with an annoying pillar boxed 4:3 aspect ratio. As a result, for all it's skill, this a movie that's never truly involving. It gets an olé for effort and daring, though.

Extras: Making of Blancanieves / Trailer

Suggested Articles:
As Swiss Army Man opens, we find Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island and about to kill hims
It’s that time again for another outing of Shaun the Sheep mayhem. This DVD release compiles the l
The decade or so following the Summer of Love was, as we are now becoming painfully aware, a period
It is 1880, and as Thomas Edison unveils his invention of the electric light bulb to the world, twin
scroll back to top

Add comment

Security code

Other articles in DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

SWISS ARMY MAN 29 March 2017


THE BLUE LAGOON 28 March 2017

MY 20TH CENTURY 28 March 2017

SHUT IN 28 March 2017

ANTIBIRTH 27 March 2017


THE MISSION 27 March 2017

SEOUL STATION 25 March 2017

EXCALIBUR 25 March 2017

- Entire Category -

Sign up today!