Directed by: Pablo Berger

Starring:  Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ángela Molina, Pere Ponce, Macarena García, and Sofía Oria

As of late we have been inundated with reinvented fairytales.  Snow White’s story has been of particular interest to filmmakers, and two movies tackled the legendary tale last year: Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the HuntsmanMirror Mirror was colorful, but ultimately unimaginative and a little too sweet.  The Huntsman was more successful, and re-envisioned the tale as more of a fantasy adventure.  Blancanieves takes a completely different approach and captures the true tragedy of Snow’s tale.

Set in the 1920s, Blancanieves tells the sad tale of a famous family.  Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is a famous bullfighter.  He is married to a beautiful dancer Carmen de Triana (Inma Cuesta).  Carmen is pregnant with the couple’s first child when Villalta is severely wounded by a vicious bull attack.  Carmen goes into labor and dies while giving birth to their daughter, Carmencita.  Villalta lives, but he is paralyzed after the attack and devastated by the loss of his beautiful wife.  He sees Carmencita as the cause of her death and rejects her.  Dona Concha (Ángela Molina), Carmen’s mother, steps in and takes care of little Carmen.

Meanwhile, Villalta is manipulated by Encarna (Maribel Verdú), one of the nurses taking care of him.  She knows that he is wealthy and uses his paralysis and dependency to rope him in.  They have a lavish wedding, and live in an impressive estate in the country.  Carmencita (Sofía Oria) lives a simple life with her grandmother Dona Concha.  Although she longs for a relationship with her father, Carmencita is surrounded by Dona Concha’s love and affection.  Tragedy strikes again when Dona Concha passes away.  Carmencita is forced to move in with her father and her wicked stepmother Encarna.  Encarna literally makes Carmencita work like a slave and sleep with the rats.  However, Carmencita is bold, beautiful, and becomes a talented bullfighter, following in her father’s footsteps. The movie follows her quest for a slice of happiness.

Blancanieves is an incredibly well done movie.  Because it is a silent film, as a viewer, I had to overcome my initial instinct to roll my eyes.  But once I overcame my general aversion to silent films, I realized that the genre is actually the perfect vehicle for a fairytale.  The characters in fairytales are either over the top evil or oozing with earnest goodness.  The simplicity of fairytales actually plays well with the dynamics of silent film, which rely more heavily on a clear villain and a clear heroine. 

As a whole, Grimm’s fairytales are actually quite dark.  Although they have been watered down over the years and “Disneyfied”—there is a great deal of tragedy and horror in the original stories.  Blancanieves sticks with the darker side of Grimm’s fairytale and taps into the true pain that these characters encounter.  Reimagining Snow White as the daughter of a famous Spanish bullfighter works surprisingly well.  The story captures the greed and lust of the wicked stepmother and the innocence and sweet spirit of the battered Carmencita beautifully. 

All in all, the acting, the score, and the cinematography are pitch perfect in Blancanieves.  The music becomes its own character, establishing the tone for each scene, and the imagery and setting create visually arresting images throughout the film.  In terms of the cast, Sofía Oria as little Carmen is adorable.  However, Ángela Molina as Carmencita’s abuela stole the movie for me.  Without saying a word, Molina delivers joy, passion, overwhelming grief, and a grandmother’s love so beautifully that I was moved to tears.  During her brief stint in the movie, Molina gave arguably the most powerful performance in the film.

Blancanieves earns a strong 0.03% rating.  Have a sangria wine cooler with this one and enjoy a poignant retelling of an age old tale.