The Devil's Backbone
THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (EL ESPINAZO DEL DIABLO) (18)
D: Guillermo del Toro
Sony Pictures Classics/Canal+/Good Machine (Agustin Almodóvar & Bertha Navarro)
Spain/Mexico 🇪🇸 🇲🇽 2001
W: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras & David Muñoz
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Luis de la Madrid
Mus: Javier Navarrete
Marisa Paredes (Carmen), Eduardo Noriega (Jacinto), Federico Luppi (Dr. Casares), Fernando Tielve (Carlos), Iñigo Garcés (Jaime)
Similarities will be made with the same director's Pan's Labyrinth, although The Devil's Backbone predates it by 5 years.
Set during the Spanish Civil War, at a remote setting, with children as the key characters, whose eyes filter out the politics involved in the on-going war. Guillermo del Toro's direction also allows the story to be told through atmospheric photography and macabre production design, rather than blood and gore effects.
After his father dies, a 10-year old is sent to a desert orphanage, where a ageing professor and a crippled widow hope to protect them from the war outside the walls, but the true danger exists within the walls, initially in the form of a bullying older boy, the rumours of another orphan who disappeared, and the janitor with an attitude (Eduardo Noriega), a former child of the orphanage.
A mysterious ghost story with hidden messages about the political landscape at the time, The Devil's Backbone is worth a watch simply for the chilling style in which it's filmed.