4.5 stars
Snow White gets an Iberian update in this Spanish, black-and-white, silent revision of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, one that owes as much to Carmen the opera as it does the Oscar winning The Artist. But that’s about where comparisons stop for Blancanieves is a unique work whose winning mix of high drama and high camp is highly entertaining.

The year is 1910 and the life of Seville’s favourite toreador is turned upside down when he’s gored by a bull the same day his beloved wife dies in childbirth. Now a paraplegic, Antonio is hidden on a country ranch by his gold-digging nurse who turns wicked step-mother, banishing Antonio’s beloved daughter Carmen to live in the coal scullery. Years pass and Carmen, now a beautiful young woman, escapes this living hell when rescued by a troupe of dwarf bull-fighters. Smitten, they teach her their craft, she joins their troupe and, ole, they’re headlining the bill back in Seville. But before you can say ‘Don’t eat the apple!’ well, you know how this works.

Blancanieves is a pedigree production in all regards. Distinguished by Kiko de la Rica’s stunning cinematography – his highly contrasted black and white images are hauntingly beautiful and faintly creepy, a perfect accompaniment to Alfonso de Vilallonga’s passionate and pulsing score – the film soars on the performances of its women. Sofia Oria (Carmen the younger) and Maribel Verdu (Carmen the older) capture a joyous, independent spirit while Angela Morina (Almodovar’s Live Flesh) makes an eye-catching grandmother. But it’s Macarena Garcia who steals every scene as Carmen’s self-centred and sadistic stepmother. She is simply brilliant.

It’s been a long time between tapas for director Pablo Berger, whose was last behind a camera for 2003’s offbeat erotic comedy, Torremolinos 73. The wait has been worth it. He doesn’t miss a beat with a film that manages to seduce, intoxicate and leave you gasping in amazement. Small wonder it scooped the pool at Spain’s equivalent of the Oscars for in all respects, Blancanieves is an exceptional film; a deliciously sumptuous and delightfully unusual feast that challenges convention with a twist of Dali and a side order of Miro for added pleasure. Fantastico!


Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney, on 25 July 2013



Maribel Verdú
Daniel Giménez Cacho
Ángela Molina

Pablo Berger

Pablo Berger

Spain (subtitles)


110 minutes

October 24, 2013
Blancanieves (2012) on IMDb
Stacks Image 56