A silent version of Snow White set in Seville, Spain in the 1920’s and arriving just one year after The Artist did so well on the world stage. This tells the tale of Snow White, her dwarves, the wicked queen and the world of bull-fighting. Based on the original tale by the brothers Grimm this is a beautifully shot, well-acted film that veers away from the Disney version.
Having recently re-read the original Grimm tale one can see how the ‘Who’s been sleeping in my bed’ originated in here and was then later utilized in the Goldilocks story.
The lack of dialogue is refreshing, the director Pablo Berger makes his second feature and works his magic to bring this version to life.
Carmencita (Sofia Ora & Macarena Garcia) is the daughter of a famous bull-fighter, Antonio Villalta (Daniel Gimenéz Cacho) who is paralysed in the ring during a fight. Carmencita’s mother dies in child-birth and Antonio remarries the wicked, Encarna, played by Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth and Y Tu Mama Tambien), who cruelly treats Antonio and carries on an sado-masochistic affair with a huntsman. When Carmencita becomes a teenager, Encarna is filled with jealousy at the young girl’s beauty and sends the Huntsman to kill her and bring back her heart.
Snow White escapes and finds herself in the residence of a travelling theatre show populated by dwarves who tour a bull-fighting show.
This film is filled with charm and beautiful story-telling and the use of silence gives room for a narrative usually reliant on dialogue. This frees Berger to tell the story with pictures, mise en scene and performance. This is definitely not a children’s film as there be darkness involved, like the old fairy tales, life and death are a major part of it and mores the joy. Protecting the little ones from some of the harsh realities of life may work for a while but eventually they’re going to find out. Many of us were told these darker stories when we were little and it did us little damage. There lies both tragedy and joy in life and these tales were told for a reason and usually didn’t pull any punches.
The score by Alfonso Villalonga sweeps us away into a world of magical-realism and is well-composed and thought out.
Whilst not being the best film I’ve seen this year it is a welcome addition to the modern world of cinema and shows us that there is still life in silent movies.