I was really looking forward to falling for this Spanish, silent, black-and-white take on Snow White, but Blancanieves proves how difficult it is to recreate the aesthetic (not to mention the fairy tales) of an earlier era.
Writer-director Pablo Berger has some fun with revising the basic narrative. In this telling, Snow White, or Carmen (Macarena Garcia), is the daughter of a famous bullfighter (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). When she runs afoul of her stepmother (Maribel Verdu), she flees into the forest and finds a new home with a band of traveling, bullfighting dwarves.
Sounds inventive and whimsical, right? Unfortunately, much of the movie is interminable, including a melodramatic prologue that does little more than set up Carmen’s parentage. Once the story proper finally gets underway it drags, largely because Berger recreates the broadness of early silent films without capturing their artistry. Expressive imagery and exaggerated expressions were only a part of those pictures, while that’s pretty much all we get here. And we get a lot of it. Blancanieves repeats the same visual motifs over and over within a scene, as if doubling up on the pictures will make up for the lack of dialogue. A good chunk of the movie is redundant; nearly all of it is missing the precision of The Artist, a similar, recent experiment.
There are nice touches, to be sure, from the occasional use of superimposed imagery to the ungainly wagon in which the dwarves travel. It’s enough to suggest my instinct was right, that the idea of a silent, Spanish version of the fairy tale held promise. Blancanieves simply doesn’t fulfill it.