Written and Directed by: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdu, Emilio Gavira, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Angela Molina, Sofia Oria, Macarena Garcia
The story is familiar, you’ve known it since childhood.
The film teases us for possessing that foreknowledge, giving us our evil stepmother (in spades), dwarves, murder plots, potion and poison apple. Transplanting the tale to Spain is ingenious and envisioning it as a silent movie nothing short of brilliant. Kudos to scenarist Berger for retaining the darkness of the original story (very Grimm, indeed).
Faces are all-important in silent cinema and “Blancanieves” features some dandies. Young Carmelita/Snow White, played at various ages by two gifted young actresses, Macarena Garcia and Sofia Oria, is beautiful and innocent, lit from within by an inextinguishable radiance. Her father’s new wife and chief tormentor (Maribel Verdu) has amazing, cadaverous cheekbones and a glare that would melt granite. She is malign and venal and her comeuppance all the more satisfying as a result. No fate could be too terrible for a face like that.
This is a Spain that has yet to be rent by war and partisanship–people still stream by the hundreds and thousands into hot, dusty forums to watch their favorite matator do battle against a murderous bull, cheering lustily at this bloodsport. Some might decry the cruelty of bullfighting, but none can deny its awful, visceral power. It is an arena where legends can be born and great narratives written (or invented). A perfect place to set a fairy tale–keeping in mind the cautionary nature of many of those efforts and refusing to remove or expurgate the blood that was frequently shed to help illustrate a hard life lesson, the kind that can only be learned once.