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Blancanieves is a 2012 film from Spain directed by Pablo Berger.

The title translates out to "Snow White", and, yes, it is a retelling of the story of Snow White, set in the 1920s. A champion bullfighter, Antonio Villalta, is gored in the ring. His heavily pregnant wife Carmen, watching from the stands, is so shocked that she goes into labor. Antonio is left a quadriplegic, while Carmen dies in childbirth.

One of Antonio's nurses, Encarna, schemes her way into marrying Antonio, who winds up essentially a prisoner in what was once his own home. Antonio and Carmen's daughter, also named Carmen, is sent off to live with her grandmother. When the grandmother dies Encarna grudgingly takes Carmen in and turns her into a scullery maid (this part is more like Cinderella). Eventually Encarna realizes that she does not need Antonio around to enjoy Antonio's money, and kills him via a Staircase Tumble. She send her chauffeur/henchman off with Carmen with orders to kill her, but Carmen survives. She winds up taking refuge with a company of dwarves. Bullfighting dwarves. Bullfighting dwarves who call her "Blancanieves".

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Blancanieves is a Deliberately Monochrome Silent Movie shot to deliberately mimic the look and feel of 1920s European silent film (hence the 1920s setting for the story.) Compare The Artist, a 2011 film also shot as a silent movie that mimicked the look of 1920s Hollywood.


Tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Don Carlos the scam artist tricks illiterate Carmen into signing a contract binding her to him for life. It has nothing to do with anything, since Carmen is murdered soon after.
  • Age Cut: Carmen, aged 12 or so, is hanging laundry to dry out in the meadow while also practicing her bullfighting moves. She passes behind a hanging sheet, and when she comes out from behind the sheet, she's a grown woman.
  • As You Know: Antonio greets his wife in the bullfighting ring with the words "To you, and to the child we are expecting."
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  • Beastly Bloodsports: Bullfighting. As filmed in this movie it's mostly Bloodless Carnage.
  • Bondage Is Bad: If being a murderer weren't enough to mark Encarna out as evil, Carmen sees her decked out in S&M gear (corset, whip, stiletto boots) riding her chauffeur like he was a pony.
  • Call-Back: Antonio's goring and all the tragedies that follow occur because a photographer snapped a photo of the charging bull and distracted Antonio for a fraction of a second. Later, when Encarta is trotting out her broken husband for the cameras, we see that same photographer, looking ashamed.
  • Dead Guy on Display: A deeply freaky version in which, after his death, Antonio is dressed up in his bullfighting costume and parked on a couch, so people can pose for photos with him.
  • Death by Childbirth: The older Carmen dies from childbirth a matter of hours after Antonio is gored.
  • Easy Amnesia: The chauffeur drowns Carmen in the river but, apparently, breaks off a little too soon, as Carmen is revived by Rafita the dwarf. When she wakes up she has typical Easy Amnesia in which she can't remember anything that's happened to her or even her name.
  • Gainax Ending: Not quite the fairy-tale ending. Don Carlos, the creepy circus impressario, is using Carmen's corpse for a gross sideshow attraction in which people can pay to kiss her dead body on the lips in hope of waking her up. Rafita, the handsome dwarf who loved her in life, is working on the sideshow attraction. After all the customers have gone, Rafita climbs into the glass coffin—apparently he sleeps next to Carmen's corpse—and kisses her lips. A tear trickles from Carmen's eye. Roll credits. What does it mean? Is Carmen waking up like in the story? Is she trapped in some sort of And I Must Scream coma? Is it merely symbolic? Who knows?
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The both creepy and sad final scene where Carmen's dead body is being used for a circus attraction takes place on a night where it's pouring rain.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipe: There's an extreme closeup of Encarna's eye as she's posing for pictures. An iris appears in her...iris. The iris then expands to wipe to the next scene, showing Antonio and little Carmen together.
  • I Love the Dead: The disturbing final scene reveals that Rafita the dwarf, who works the creepy sideshow attraction with Carmen's corpse, sleeps in the coffin next to the corpse. And then he kisses Carmen's dead lips.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: It's horribly cruel but also goofy when Encarna reveals to Carmen that her pet rooster Pepe is dinner, by asking her "Do you like PEPE-ry chicken?"
  • Jitter Cam: Seen when little Carmen is chasing her pet rooster Pepe around the mansion.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Encanta manages to escape from the revenge-minded dwarves
  • Little People Are Surreal: A troupe of six (hot seven, six) dwarves that travel around together, staging mock bullfights with calves instead of adult bulls. And just to make things a little weirder, one of the dwarves is a cross-dresser. (As for the number thing, for some reason the sign on the side of their wagon announces them as seven dwarves when there are only six. One dwarf is shown looking at the sign, counting to six on his fingers, and looking puzzled.)
  • Match Cut: There's a cut from the full moon to the wafer Carmen takes at her first Communion.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child: Antonio turns away from baby Carmen when she's brought to him in the hospital. Of course he's got a lot to deal with, what with being paralyzed on top of everything else. He repents later, when it's far too late.
  • Never Learned to Read: Carmen admits she can't read and signs with an X the contract that Don Carlos hands to her. It's a pretty terrible contract binding Carmen to Don Carlos for life.
  • Police are Useless: We don't even see the police, but we can only wonder how Encarna pushes her husband down a flight of stairs and gets away with it (how could a quadriplegic wind up there?), or how she apparently got away with bashing her chauffeur upside the head with a statue and passing that off as drowning.
  • Retraux: Shot in the old 4:3 aspect ratio, Deliberately Monochrome, and as a silent movie, with a 1920s setting to boot.
  • Silence Is Golden: A silent film.
  • Sky Face: Carmen actually sees her father in the sky nodding encouragment before her final showdown with the bull. (Too bad he didn't tell her to not eat the apple.)
  • Staircase Tumble: How Encanta eventually kills her husband, by sending him down a flight of stairs.
  • Table Space: Encanta invites Carmen to dinner for the first time, but the ominous mood is established immediately as Encanta and Carmen are on opposite ends of a long dinner table. The main course turns out to be Carmen's pet rooster.
  • Tempting Apple: Encanta tricks Carmen into eating a poisoned apple.
  • Toros y Flamenco: Well, despite being a Spanish production this film has both Toros and Flamenco, as bullfighting is a major theme, while Carmen's mother was a flamenco dancer.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Carmen's status as basically a slave in her former home is demonstrated when Encanta mercilessly hacks off her shoulder-length hair and leaves her with a close-cropped prison-style haircut.
  • Travel Montage: A montage shows Carmen/"Blancanieves" fighting bulls while the troupe travels around a map of Spain.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Boy howdy. Encanta imprisons her husband in the mansion and takes all his money, then finally murders him. She treats her stepdaughter like a slave, before eventually trying to have her murdered too. Then Encanta finally does murder Carmen, after realizing that Carmen's fame as a lady bullfighter is taking away from the attention that Encanta gets from the press.
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