Starring: Macarena García, Maribel Verdú, Sofía Oria
Director: Pablo Berger
Running Time: 104 mins
Blancanieves is a Spanish film about a young girl who grows up under her envious stepmother, but flees and becomes a skilled bullfighter in 1920s Seville.
Replicating films of the silent age is always a very difficult task, and it’s one that can come off well if done just right, but is a lot more likely to miss the mark. As much as Blancanieves is a film filled with passion and emotion, I felt it didn’t have the energy or narrative ingenuity to prove thoroughly enthralling, something that makes for an unfortunately frustrating watch despite the excellent style from director Pablo Berger.
In fact, let’s start on the plus side, with how Berger brings this silent era-style film to life in the modern day. While it’s set back in the 1920s, there’s a combination of modern style and homage to the old ways of cinema here, something that makes Blancanieves a really exciting and striking film at times.
With special praise going to the editors, the film’s most powerful moments come when the score reaches a powerful crescendo, the emotions heighten, the camera angles tighten, as we see the scene increase the pace tenfold through the use of quick-cut editing, reminiscent of the likes of Battleship Potemkin in its ability to whip you as a viewer up into a state of frenzy so quickly.
Another plus comes in the form of the performances, which do go a long way to injecting some strong emotion, and even a bit of a dark streak, into the movie. Maribel Verdú is an excellent villain, playing the role of the evil stepmother (the equivalent of the Queen in Snow White), while both Sofía Oria and Macarena García prove delightful leads as the younger and older versions of Carmencita – effectively Snow White herself.
The story proves an engaging watch throughout, and with that rather dark streak present at every moment, the film does at least have a tangible sense of danger and tension hanging over it throughout, furthered by that strong editing and directing.
However, while I can’t deny that Blancanieves is a fantastic homage to silent cinema and the old days, as well as an excellent techincal and artistic achievement in its own right, it really misses out on a fully enthralling narrative, as we see its adaptation of the classic fairytale of Snow White take a rather predictable direction.
Apart from giving the story the darker side that it definitely warrants (and that the Disney classic doesn’t quite have the guts to pull off), there were too many times here that I felt I was watching a simple rehash of Snow White.
The first act does a good job to establish its own world, and the focus on 1920s Seville is a lively and vibrant one, but once that first act comes to a close, the film settles into a rather simplistic pattern of retelling Snow White in a way that doesn’t allow for any surprises or high emotion. In the end, the movie feels a lot more like watching Snow White than it does the tragic story of a bullfighter in 1920s Spain, and that’s why it just doesn’t work out for me, so I’m giving Blancanieves a 6.8 overall.