Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Devil's Backbone

There are plenty of films I am excited to see that are coming out towards the end of this year. But the one which excites me the most is Pan's Labrynth. But before seeing that movie I wanted to go back to another film by Guillermo Del Toro that I had remembered seeing a few years back and remembered really enjoying and that was The Devil's Backbone.

The Devil's Backbone is a ghost story told in an orphanage against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. As viewers we don't aren't given much of an insight into the Spanish Civil War, and a knowledge of Spanish politics isn't neccessary to actually enjoy this movie. This is because the film takes place almost entirely inside a orphanage where children are left after their fathers have either died or gone off to fight for the cause.

The film starts with a voiceover , "What is a ghost? a tragedy condemned to repeat itself..." among other responses. Soon after, we see a twelve year old boy, Carlos, being taken across landscapes that look straight out of a John Ford movie to the orphanage. When we get there if the ominous tone hasn't already been set by the ghost questions it is set when in the middle of the schoolyard we see an enormous bomb. Earlier we saw the bomb drop and not explode in a sequence that took place quite a while before, but now we see it is still in the schoolyard. Even though it's supposedly been switched off some children claim to hear it's heartbeat.

For the most part the film follows Carlos as he quickly learns who his friends and enemies are at this new place. He also learns quickly about "the one who sighs." Besides the wonderful visualswhat makes The Devil's Backbone so effective is that the ghost isn't just a ghost, it isn't their just for scares and thrills. Some thrills and scares are there, but mostly Carlos is attempting to find out who the ghost is, why he's a ghost, and what he needs or wants. carlos's curiousity and willingness to find out puts himself and friends in danger before leading up to one of my favorite movie endings of all time, and including another John Ford-esque closing shot.

The initial reviews of Pan's Labrynth such as this one at Not Coming have said it is a fairy for grown ups and a film that takes some of the themes and styles in Devil's Backbone and expanded them even more. That couldn't thrill me more. The Devil's Backbone may be one of my favorite ghost stories ever and if Pan's can top that, I can't wait.

1 comment:

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