While Pablo Berger's Blancanieves will feel just a tad obvious given that it comes relatively on the heels of The Weinstein Company's Oscar-winning The Artist, beyond the basic concept that both are silent, black-and-white films there's much to differentiate between the two films. This Spanish film, a 1920's set spin on the classic story of Snow White, is in many ways a more advanced approach than The Artist in that it will likely play as much more relevant for a contemporary audience.
The film is set in 1920's Seville. Antonio (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is an extraordinarily famous matador with a beautiful wife and a child on the way. In an excruciating yet exquisitely photographed scene, Antonio is seriously wounded by a bull and while he's in surgery his wife dies during birth. The horribly bereaved Antonio can't stand to even look at his daughter, but when her caretaker dies Carmencita (Sofia Oria) goes to live with her still depressed father and his new wife, Encarna (Maribel Verdu), the true definition of an evil stepmother seen through the lens of Spanish cinema.
While Encarna tries to isolate Antonio and treats Carmencita horridly, father and daughter secretly meet and Antonio begins to teach his daughter his trade. When she has grown (now played by Macarena Garcia), Carmen is driven out of the home by Encarna and is taken in by, you guessed it, a group of matadors of a decidedly smaller stature. She joins their act and becomes recognized for her skills, a recognition that again attracts the attention of wrath of Encarna.
What occasionally feels lacking because of the loss of spoken dialogue is more than made up by Berger's hypnotic visuals and Alfonso de Vilallonga's inspired and stunningly clever original score that seems to communicate just about everything the film needs to have communicated. The film was Spain's entry to this past year's Academy Awards and won a slew of Goyas along with a host of film festival awards before arriving stateside for a limited arthouse run with those fabulous folks at the Cohen Media Group.
Blancanieves most certainly won't appeal to everyone. I'd almost venture to say that while the film is very different from The Artist, the odds are pretty strong that if you couldn't stand that film you won't likely resonate with this one. That said, if you are an adventurous moviegoer who is able to fully surrender yourself to a visual and full-on sensory experience then this is very likely one film that will completely sweep you away. You may find yourself even a bit surprised at just how deeply moved you are by a film that is devoid of spoken word yet communicates volumes.