Director: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdu, Sofía Oria, Macarena Garcia, Daniel Giminez Cacho
Watch Blancanieves online in the UK: BFI Player+ / BFI Player / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes
After Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, you couldn’t be blamed for being sick of Snow White and her seven flipping dwarves. But Blancanieves is Snow White like you’ve never seen it: it’s Spanish. And silent. And black-and-white. And it features a chicken called Pepe. In short, it’s fantastic.
Antonio Villalta (Cacho) is a bullfighting legend, but when he is injured in a horrible goring and his wife dies during childbirth, his career is suddenly over. Can plucky young daughter Carmencita (Oria and, older, Garcia) pick up his cloak where he left off?
To do so, she’ll have to get past her new step-mum, the evil nurse Encarna. Wooing her way into Villalta’s widowed bed, Maribel Verdu’s villain is hilariously nasty, flouncing around in fancy clothes and batting her eyelashes like a Spanish Cruella de Ville. Naturally, she tries to have Carmencita killed, only for the wee woman to run away and end up with a troupe of bullfighting dwarves. I’ll just repeat that again: bullfighting dwarves.
“Let’s call her Blancanieves (literally ‘Snow White’),” they decide, because it’s reminds them all of the famous story. Pablo Berger’s script is full of such witty nods to The Brothers Grimm, reworking the familiar tale into a warped and wonderfully entertaining romp. Even the kiss of life takes on a disturbing necrophiliac tone.
But what really impresses is how independent Snow White is. None of that soppy Prince Charming malarkey: here, she’s the world’s only non-male matador, happy to face down charging animals as well as her step-mum.
After The Artist’s self-awareness, it’s also nice to see a movie that plays its silence straight. That’s not to say it isn’t stylish. Put together with real flair and panache, Berger’s production has an enthusiasm missing from other recent adaptations. Sequences blend together in hectic montages, a rush images driven by Alfonso de Vilallonga’s fabulous flamenco-tinged soundtrack. By keeping things streamlined and simple, Blancanieves does one thing Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman couldn’t: stop you feeling bored. Well, that and make jokes about chickens. And who doesn’t like those?
Blancanieves is available on BFI Player+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription – with a 30-day free trial.