By Kane Laing
Fri 20 Mar 2015, 8:30pm (Films by Starlight – in Civic Square)
On Friday the 20th of march I was on my bike heading to the train station from university, I found myself cycling through Civic Square trying to find the fastest route to the train station. Obstructing my path was a crowd of people and a giant blow-up projector screen with a beautifully shot black and white silent film cast upon it. I thought to myself “Nice. That’s some beautiful cinematography”, and tried to weave through the crowd only to find there was no way out, and then i heard the incredible soundtrack and decided to watch for 30 seconds. I checked my watch and thought I could afford to watch for 10 minutes, that turned into 30, then into the rest of the 105 minute film (I managed to arrive at its beginning). It had sucked me in.
Sometimes when you know nothing about a film or an artwork and you stumble upon it, you can have a more pure experience, because no thoughts or expectations are bought into the experience. This was the case on my viewing of Blancanieves, a black and white silent film by Pablo Berger. I also had no idea that it was made in 2012 and not in the 1920s. What grabbed me first was its beautiful cinematography, compositions that evoked nuanced emotions and that magic of a transcending experience with a piece of art. The quality of the visual language of silent film was also very sharp and authentic to 1920s silent film.
The story follows a famous torero (matador) in spain who is mauled during a bull-fight and confined to a wheelchair, during this event his daughter is born and grew up not knowing her father. She escapes the clutches her father’s evil caregiver and begins her career as a torero with a travelling torero band. I had an inkling that I confirmed later that the film’s story was based on the Snow White fairy tale. The narrative is tastefully told and it is refreshing to have good visual story telling in a film, something that has suffered in the world of special effects and dramatic scripts.
The film setup in civic square by Films by Starlight is a wonderful and necessary part of cultural events in Wellington. If not for events like this, stumbling into a beautiful experience would not happen so often, and it is these accidental experiences where your art-guard is down that can be the most powerful and beautiful of all.