The obvious comparison to Pablo Berger’s inventive retelling of Snow White as a silent-movie melodrama, set in the 1920s bullfighting scene of Seville, is The Artist. Both channel the international language of silents for modern viewers, and both have been embraced by audiences and lavished with awards. Blancanieves comes stateside with 10 Goya Awards, Spain’s answer to the Oscars.
The similarities end there. Berger draws from different inspirations—grand melodrama, flamenco, circus fantasy, and toreador worship—and mixes them with silent-film conventions and contemporary storytelling. Think Blood and Sand by way of Victor Sjöström and Pedro Almodóvar, with a modern, empowered heroine.
That heroine—called “Snowhite” in one mashed-up word—is Carmen (Macarena García), the all-but-abandoned daughter of a crippled bullfighter (Daniel Giménez Cacho). Her social-climbing wicked stepmother Encarna is played by Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mamá También) with scheming, sadistic glee. There’s also a band of dwarfs with a gypsy bullfighting act and a poisoned apple, but the fairy-tale elements end there. In the enchanted corrida, amnesia-struck Snowhite becomes a matador in her own right, an adored heroine and Prince Charming all at once.