With only three days left of the Milwaukee Film Festival (http://mkefilm.org), more films are reaching their final screening. Saturday, Oct. 5 was the last showing of Film Festival Favorite and ten-time 2013 Goya winner "Blancanieves" at the Fox Bay Cinema-Grill at 1:30 p.m. Pablo Berger's "Blancanieves" is a dated retelling of the Snow White fairy tale using a black and white silent film format and bullfighting back story.
"Blancanieves" is the story of Carmencita, the daughter of bullfighting champion, Antonio Villalta. After a series of unfortunate events, Carmencita becomes Blancanieves, following in her father's footsteps as a world famous bullfighter. But her troubles are far from over as she and her company of traveling dwarves are hounded by her sinister stepmother, Encarna.
This film is a prime example of how new cinema meets old cinema. The format of "Blancanieves" is much like that of silent era films, but there are clearly touches of modern film-making. The film opens with an orchestra tuning and red stage curtains parting to reveal the opening credits, clearly making a presentation of the film. This self-aware fairytale stays within the bounds of the silent era, while still hinting at modern themes. The captivating performances from lead actresses Macarena García (Blancanieves) and Maribel Verdú (Encarna) in particular epitomize the essence of silent film acting. To see their expressiveness and emotion create such strong personas without the use of sound is truly a testament to their talent and the power of silent film.
One element of silent film that maintains a strong presence throughout this film is transitional technique. Match cut transitions in particular are a part of film-making that hasn't been as much of a presence as cinema progressed. Transitions and superimposed images work together in "Blancanieves" to convey emotion, back story, and motivation in a creative and unapologetically obvious way. Superimposing faded images of Antonio Villalta and his shared memories with Blancanieves is a particular point of creating connection between the two characters in the film, even after Antonio's death.
This retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale may popular silent era techniques, but there are also new twists to this story that make it unique and surprising for audience members. There are several moments of foreshadowing and tributes to the original fairytale (the glass casket and skull-covered poisoned apple, for example) that make the audience believe that they are watching the exact same story with an added bullfighting element. But Berger injects the film with the unexpected, making it a while new story for the audience.