director Pablo Berger
viewed: 04/25/2013 at Embarcadero Cinemas, SF, CA
A Spanish “Snow White” by any other name… or literally Blancanieves. An oddity of sorts, it’s a modern silent film, shot in the style of the 1920’s, in black and white, even using what would have been the typical aspect ratio (4:3) of the time as well. Perhaps less odd after the success of The Artist (2011), though the film’s creator, Pablo Berger, swore that this film was in production before The Artist became such a thing.
It is perhaps not ridiculous to compare the two films, though they are not really alike outside of their cinematic throwback concepts. Many have considered Blancanieves a superior film. I would not say that myself. It has its charms but it’s not a particularly good film. It’s a little hard to judge perhaps but I didn’t find it so wonderful.
It is a “Snow White” minus the magic (mostly), set in the bullfighting world in Spain in the 1920’s. A child is born to a famous singer mother and a famous toreador father at a point of great tragedy for both. The mother dies in childbirth and the father is gored and turned into a paraplegic. In steps the wicked step-mother, a conniving nurse, who seeks to punish the young girl, whose existence causes her so much ire. She even sends her to the woods to be killed by a henchman.
And Carmencita (Blancanieves to her friends) even encounters some dwarves, a group of traveling entertainers who also “fight” bulls. She even sort of falls in love with one of them (there is no handsome prince in this telling).
It all sounds quite good and lovely. And it is certainly not without its charms. It’s even a little extra interesting (sort of) for me as I’ve seen a few “Snow Whites” of late: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and Snow White (1916). In fact, in concept the whole thing seems pretty cool. Which it is.
It’s just not very well-done. Which is a shame. It will be interesting to see if other silent films get made now into features. It’s quite a different thing to make them today. In their day, they were the medium. It wasn’t as if something additional, like sound or color, was available and forgone. Even silents that were made after the advent of sound production were commodities or artistic choices.
These two films are both intentional throwbacks, full of homage, and even set in the period of the Silent Era. They are what they are. But they can never be what they emulate.