I knew vaguely that the words in the title were “white” and “snow,” but it didn’t hit me until the movie started that that this was the tale of Snow White.
PG-13 for some violent content and sexuality
Set in 1920s Spain, filmed in 4:3 and black-and-white, and presented as a silent film, Blancanieves has been called this year’s The Artist. That’s actually a pretty shallow comparison. Where The Artist was goofy fun, Blancanieves seems to take itself much more seriously. That’s not to say it isn’t witty, or that it doesn’t play with the medium of silent film. But instead of going for broad laughs, Blancanieves seems to capture a lot of genuine emotion in its 1920s melodrama. Even the silent-movie tropes — closeups, irises, and editing rhythms — seem more about engaging the audience than winking at them.
Father and daughter form the core relationship in Blancanieves. A good-hearted Snow White lives with her vain and impatient stepmother for as long as she can. When her father (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), a renowned bullfighter convalescing after being gored in the opening scene, dies, Blanca is thrown out on her own. Adult Blanca is played by Macarena Garcia with an inspiring mix of strength, confidence, and humility.
She falls in with a troupe of bullfighting dwarves who open for the A-list toreadors in the small towns on the Spanish plains. The spirit of her father always remains with her as she builds a name for herself as a capable, talented, and female, bullfighter.
Blancanieves is really a couple of cinematic experiments — first in making a silent film in 2012, and second in getting the story away from the feeling of a fairy tale while keeping the themes and details. It succeeds very well in both experiments.