Snow White in silent monochrome surprises

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Maribel Verdu as the stepmother
Maribel Verdu is stunningly believable as the opportunistic bitch step-mother with the apple

Blanca Nieves is a thorougly modern Snow White set in Spain a century ago and filmed in black and white without any speech. There are enough twists in the presentation of this story to provide an element of surprise and the film is so lushly made and the drama so finely presented that the audience remains captivate for nearly two hours.

The masterful use of bald melodrama, familiar tropes and a well known plot allows writer and director, Pablo Berger a free hand to stage the story using the best techiques of a century of film-making. The modern camera and depth of acting brings the black and white silent artform a century forward and the integration of a beautiful soundtrack with a silent film engages the senses of a modern audience.

The actors bring every element of the story to the attention of the audience as a series of unforgettable vignettes, each of them a powerful image and cinematic moment as well as an integral part of the story.

Setting the film set a century ago provides a classic fairy tale atmosphere while delivering a thoroughly recognisable world of media, glamour and false heroes. It connects the world of Gatsby with a more distant darker past.

The use of a century old film style to present the world of the time allows the use of high melodrama without being too cheesy and the twentieth century is much more like our  own than the premedieval setting usually associated with the tales recorded by the brother’s Grimm.

It is hard to know what mainstream audiences will make of this, the Oscar winning silent black and white film the Singer did well on the arthouse circuit two years ago but was hardly a block buster. This film is less hollywood and is unlikely to make it onto the screens in most shopping malls.


It is also the third Snow White movie in as many years. We have had the sword and sorcery Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristen Stewart in Joan of Arc armour closely followed by the would be post-modern comedy, Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts as the wicked queen. They each sat firmly within their genre and barely broke the surface of the regular flow of film that washes across our screens.

I will mark Blanca Nieves down as being something that little bit extra, it would easily make my top ten for 2013, but I will not be recommending it around the water cooler at work. I suspect it is just one step too far for the suburban cineplex.

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