Pablo Berger, Spain 2013
Spanish with Dutch subtitles
Black and white, silent, bold and beautiful, this Spanish reimagining of a famous fairy tale is sure to be among the most exhilarating and purely cinematic experiences of your movie year.
The title is the Spanish word for Snow White and the opening credits says it is "inspired by" that Grimm brothers fairy tale though there are nods to Cinderella and Red Riding Hood too.
But the story has an arc all its own, and it's pure Spanish: a famous matador, Antonio Villalta, meets with double tragedy in the opening reel when he is paralysed by an injury in the bullring and loses his wife in childbirth.
His daughter, Carmen, survives and is raised by her grandmother but when the old woman dies, the young girl is sent to be raised by his father's new wife, Encarna. The tetraplegic's erstwhile nurse, Encarna is a gold-digging schemer and wicked stepmother in the grand tradition. She bans Carmen from the first floor, where her father is confined, and sets her to menial labour.
Carmen, first played with wide-eyed charm, grows into a beautiful young woman and if you paid attention during bedtime stories, you will have a fair idea of what's in store. There are dwarves, all right, though they are bullfighting dwarves of course, but there are plenty of other twists that the Grimm fellows never thought of.