A band of bullfighting dwarfs save the life of a young woman with amnesia. They end up taking her under their wing when they find out that she has seemingly natural skills as a bullfighter, upon which they can capitalize not only for their act but for her own personal gain. As she does not know her name or background, the dwarfs coin her Blancanieves, after the famed fairy tale. What they are all unaware of is that she is really Carmen, the daughter of the once great matador, Antonio Villalta. On the day Carmen was born, her father suffered a career ending accident, and her mother died in childbirth. Her father quickly remarried his nurse, the evil Encarna. Although raised by her grandmother during her early years, Carmen, following the death of her grandmother, went to live with Encarna while an adolescent, Encarna who treated her as a slave. Carmen eventually found her disabled father, who was hidden away and treated poorly by Encarna. In the meantime, Encarna was cavorting with the...Written by
Curious Adaptation of the Brothers' Grimm Tale that Seems Uncertain about its Tone
Laden with awards; entered as Best Foreign Language Film for the 2013 Oscars; it seems rather churlish to criticize Pablo Berger's silent retelling of the Snow White myth, bearing strong visual and stylistic parallels to Michel Hazanavicius's THE ARTIST (2011).
And yet the film's overall impact is reduced by an uncertainty of tone. There are sequences of quite graphic violence - notably at the beginning, when bull-fighter Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is gored by the bull; or when the infant Carmencita (Sofía Oria) is force-fed roast chicken by the evil Doña Concha (Ángela Molina), the remains of her once-faithful pet Pepe. Such moments exist uneasily with the comedy of the adolescent Carmen (Macarena García) as she joins up with the bull-fighting dwarfs, who tour the country with a specialty act. Then there is the problem of the ending which is positively necrophiliac in tone. Perhaps director Berger wants to make a veiled comment on the ways in which innocence is at once cherished yet abused in contemporary societies, but the sudden shifts of tone prove uneasy.
On the other hand, BLANCANIEVES contains some stunning individual sequences, attesting to the director's abilities as a filmmaker; for example, the use of dissolves unifying past with the present, as the dead Antonio continues to affect Carmen's life, even after he has been thrown down the stairs by Doña Concha; or the moment when Doña Concha meets a grisly end at the bull-fighting venue, gored to death by an angry bull. The use of shadows to suggest violence in this latter sequence is memorable.
As a piece of silent movie-making, BLANCANIEVES is hard to fault. Berger understands how one image is worth a hundred words, and keeps the dialogue to a minimum. Rather he relies on the gestural versatility of his cast to communicate emotions - a task they embrace with relish. Add to that the snappy editing, with a plot that positively zips by, and one can see why this remake of Snow White proves so diverting. If it wasn't for those tonal shifts ...
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