Tag Archives: black and white



Format: Cinema

Release date: 12 July 2013

Distributor: Studiocanal

Director: Pablo Berger

Writer: Pablo Berger

Inspired by the tale of Snow White from: The Brothers Grimm

Cast: Maribel Verdú, Macarena García, Daniel Giménez Cacho, &#193ngela Molina, Pere Ponce, Sofía Oria

Spain, France 2012

104 mins

The pretty girl with the boyish haircut can’t remember a thing. What’s your name? Nothing. What happened to you? Nothing. She doesn’t know where she comes from, or how she got the marks on her neck. And she clearly has no idea who these tiny men are, who rescued her the night before and now bombard her with unsettling questions. Of course, everyone familiar with the story of Snow White in its many incarnations sort of knows what has happened and where this is going, yet Pablo Berger’s witty, imaginative adaptation is more than just another reciting of the oft-told Brothers Grimm tale.

Shot in beautiful, sharp black and white with no dialogue, Blancanieves pays tribute to the 1920s European silent film era and its connections with theatrical, musical and comical forms. Set in Andalusia during the golden age of bullfighting, Berger’s folktale extravaganza centres around the adorable young Carmen (Macarena García), the daughter of a famous matador who, after a long and painful childhood under the eye of her evil stepmother (Maribel Verdú), escapes from home and finds company in a troupe of wandering, bullfighting dwarfs. Having lost her memory in a fight with the mother’s sidekick, who had orders to kill her, Carmen doesn’t realise where she, or her talent, comes from, as she follows in the footsteps of her father to become a famous matador, but it’s not long before the past catches up with her.

Guided by Kiko de la Rica’s radiant cinematography, Berger spends the first half of the film describing Carmen’s childhood (played as a child by Sofía Oria), leaving plenty of space for moments of wit and humour, while at the same time setting out the close bond between the little girl and her beloved, downcast father (Daniel Giménez Cacho), confined to a wheelchair after he was crippled in the ring and still silently grieving for his first wife, who died when giving birth to their child. Despite the obvious fairytale ambience, the film never compromises the mystical undertone that foreshadows the dark events to come. The second half, which sees Carmen eventually rising to fame in the corrida, first has a lighter feel to it, if only to build up to the tragic final act, in which the stepmother returns to the scene to accomplish her malicious plan.

In addition to the excellent performances throughout, in particular by the two female leads, what also makes this wonderfully grotesque adaptation of the Grimms’ popular fable particularly exciting is the score by Alfonso de Vilallonga, which, if slightly excessive in places, perfectly complements the creepy and dangerous atmosphere of the story.

Blancanieves may be the umpteenth reworking of Snow White, but the film, if you are willing to temporarily suspend disbelief and let yourself be enthralled by its dazzling, silent cinema magic, exhibits a boldness, and the kind of astute, fantastical entertainment, that has become all too rare. For all his command of ambitious and playful narrative ingenuity and apt technical flair, Berger’s study in demonised female vanity and the power of true beauty favours atmosphere over frenzy – and achieves it in striking fashion.

Pamela Jahn

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A Field in England

A Fild in England
A Field in England

Format: Cinema, free TV, DVD, VOD

Release date: 5 July 2013

Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment

Director: Ben Wheatley

Writers: Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley

Cast: Reese Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Julian Barratt, Ryan Pope, Peter Ferdinando

UK 2013

90 mins

One of the most exciting directors in contemporary British cinema, Ben Wheatley keeps on surprising his audience. Not one to repeat himself, he refreshed the tired British crime-thriller genre with his brilliant 2009 debut Down Terrace, following it up with the acclaimed horror/gangster tale hybrid Kill List in 2011 and the hilarious black comedy Sightseers in 2012. With A Field in England, Wheatley explores new territory again, delivering an astonishing psychedelic period piece, while innovating in terms of distribution, with the film released simultaneously in cinemas and on TV, DVD and Video On Demand.

Set during the English Civil War, A Field in England follows the cowardly clerk Whitehead (Reese Shearsmith) as he runs away from the battlefield in the company of Cutler (Ryan Pope), Jacob (Peter Ferdinando) and Thrower (Julian Barratt). After consuming magic mushrooms, they come across Cutler’s master in the most unusual way (inspired by mushroom folklore, as Wheatley has explained). The master turns out to be the evil alchemist O’Neil (the splendidly sinister Michael Smiley), the man Whitehead’s own master sent him to hunt down after he stole precious documents from him. O’Neil is looking for a treasure buried in a field, and he and Cutler force the three deserters to help him find it.

Thereon follow surreal occurrences, strange transformations, unexplained resurrections, the intimation of dark deeds and a stunning hallucination sequence. Loose and experimental, the film is a little like a trip itself, with moments where nothing much happens making it feel like time is stretching, punctuated by startlingly visionary scenes. Wheatley conjures up horror out of pretty much nothing, with the unnerving sequence in which O’Neil subjects Whitehead to terrible unseen things inside his tent being the most astounding example.

Listen to Virginie Sélavy’s interview with Ben Wheatley on Resonance 104.4FM.

The use of black and white photography fits the film well, adding an unreal, ghostly quality to the bucolic landscape. Regular occurrences of frozen, live tableaux of the characters contribute to the experimental feel. The trippy weirdness is mixed with humour, a constant ingredient in Wheatley’s films, although it is of a bawdier kind here, maybe to fit with the 17th-century setting. Not much is seen of that period, and just like in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990), the major event remains in the background, while the film focuses on marginal figures who play no part in the big historical drama unfolding nearby.

For all its wonderful inventiveness and thrilling moments, however, it has to be said that A Field in England is a film that requires patience and receptiveness on the part of the audience. There are longueurs and the film feels slight at times, not to mention that for those who know Wheatley’s previous films, it is hard not to hope for more horror and drama. Watching the trailer ‘They’re Over Here Devil!’, a sort of condensed orange-tinted distillation of A Field in England, you wish the whole film could have been as intense and demented as that. Despite its flaws, A Field in England is an original, adventurous, imaginative, compelling work, a rare enough thing in a British cinema stifled by formulaic scripts and timorous financing entities, to deserve being celebrated.

Virginie Sélavy

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