The word blancanieves is Spanish for white snow. Or in the hands of the writer/director and cinematographer and editor Pablo Berger, it’s Snow White and his vision of the fabled Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Done in brilliant black and white and as a silent movie, Blancanieves is set in 1920s Spain. Carmen’s mother dies in childbirth. Her mom succumbs to complications after watching her bullfighter father get mauled by a vicious bull.
Permanently paralyzed, the father shuns his daughter and marries the wicked stepmother Encarna, who makes the girl’s life utterly miserable and bans Carmen from seeing her father.
Later, dad and daughter secretly reconnect, and he teaches her to bullfight. Eventually, the wicked stepmother causes Carmen to flee for her life and into the care of the seven dwarves, who just happen to be a bullfighting troop.
The acting — especially that of Pan’s Labyrinth’s Maribel Verdu — is very good. But the real star of the movie is Berger. Most directors rely on CGI and other creative effects to punctuate a plot. Berger does it with superb editing and clever camera angles that give us one of the most impressive movies I’ve seen in 25 years as a movie critic.
In 2012, Blancanieves was Spain’s official Oscar entry for the Best Foreign Language film. It didn’t even make the short list, but won a gazillion awards all over Europe and at some U.S. film festivals.
As an FYI, Michael Haneke’s Amour won the Oscar. I remember quite a bit about Haneke’s movie, and it was good. However, that memory is fading. I’ll never forget anything about Blancanieves.
And neither will you.