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Blancanieves by Pablo Berger

July 20, 2013


My first reaction when I heard that the new film by Pablo Berger was a reworking of the Snow White tale was to stay away from the movie: I feared an overdose of symbolism or a psychological pack of nonsense, luckily it turns out that my fear was unmotivated, Berger has set the story in Spain and he has adorned it with all kinds of Spanish paraphernalia while filming it as a silent black & white film which privileges cinematic language and inventiveness above any other thing, though you can find one or two winks to cinephilia, this is not The Artist – though the success of Hazanavicius’s film made it possible for Berger to find the economic support to shoot his Blancanieves, but this is where the relationship ends.


So we are in Spain and without shame Berger gives la corrida the role of motor of the events and even the music (by Alfonso de Vilallonga) is everything you can expect to hear in a Spanish movie – our heroine is named Carmen! – it’s no use to fight stereotypes, the best thing to do is to use them at your advantage; Blamcanieves is a period film, we are in the 1920s a time when bullfighting was really the heart and soul of Spain and in a country living under the rule of Miguel Primo de Rivera a matador as Joselito was the stuff of legend, stories that make a hard life life easier to face.

Kiko de la Rica’s cinematography is highly contrasted and gives the film a solar (very Mediterranean) and at the same time sulphurous (very Snow Whitesque) atmosphere, Fernando Franco’s editing is nimble and very much in tune with Berger’s direction, the look and feel of the silent era is here, filming a well-known story concedes a lot of stylistic freedom to the director, Berger makes good use of it, he uses counterpoint – just think how the distress of the daughter echoes the sickness of the father – and he is playful and joyous with the adaptation: just look at the memorable dwarves. The cast is all great but while you can expect Maribel Verdú playing with gusto the evil stepmother, the surprise comes from Macarena García – Carmen/Snow White – who gives a rich and nuanced performance.

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