Silent film tribute meets Grimm gothic melodrama in this enchanting black and white feature that begins in 1920s Seville. Soon after a prize bullfighter is paralysed, his wife dies in childbirth. New wife Encarna is every inch the evil stepmother to young Carmen, though father and daughter still find time to bond over bullfighting training. And what’s that? A band of bullfighting dwarves waiting around the corner?
Yes, this is the Snow White story, Spanish style. As it moves from Plaza de Toros to palacio, the story is told with an eye for high Hispanic drama, revelling in theatrical costumes and an orchestral and flamenco-driven soundtrack. Title cards are used sparingly, and the cast is strong. Maribel Verdú (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) is a chilling and darkly humorous stepmother while Daniel Giménez Cacho (‘Bad Education’) brings poignancy as the regretful father, imprisoned by a wheelchair yet liberated by his child (played appealingly by Macarena García and later Sofía Oria). The running time is a bit indulgent, but the journey is delightful. If you were looking for Spain’s answer to ‘The Artist’, here it is.