Archive of films The Devil´s Backbone / El Espinazo del Diablo

Spain / Mexico
2001, 106 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2002

An allegorical drama and gothic work of horror set in an orphanage where visions of spectres vie for centre stage with the even harsher realities of life.


Spain at the end of the thirties, just days before the end of the Civil War. Ten-year-old Carlos, whose Republican father was killed in battle, is left by his guardian at the Santa Lucia orphanage, an impressive stone structure in the middle of a desolate landscape where war orphans are sent. The bleak halls of the building conceal not only the adult characters’ dissolute relationships (between the one-legged director Carmen, professor Casares, young teacher Conchita and the aggressive custodian Jacinto), but also the ghost of a boy who seems bent on making contact with Carlos. The newcomer must also deal with the living, mainly the spiteful and unfriendly Jaime, the eldest orphan. Carlos soon becomes suspicious that the child ghost, whose intentions are unclear, is the spirit of a former student named Santi who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Santi’s ghost wants to use Carlos as a means to cruelly and unexpectedly avenge his own brutal murder.

About the director

Guillermo del Toro (b. 1964, Guadalajara, Mexico) graduated in screenwriting and is a founding member of the Film Studies Center and the Muestra del Cine Mexicano (Mexican Film Festival) in his home town. He has made numerous shorts, some of which have been selected by a dozen international festivals. He studied special effects with the legendary Dick Smith (The Godfather, The Exorcist, Amadeus), then worked in this field for ten years with his own company, Necropia. He has directed for Mexican television, and at age 21 he produced Dona Herlinda and Her Son (dir. Jaime Humberto Hermosillo). Del Toro has also published a book on Alfred Hitchcock. The script of his first feature, Chronos, came out in book form, and the film won the Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes festival; the British film mag Shiver listed it among the 100 best horror films ever. His interest in the horror genre led to Mimic in 1997, and projects with Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, among others, are in the works: Mephisto’s Bridge, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Coffin, and Aura. This year´s KV IFF is also screeninghis action thriller Blade II (2OO2).

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Horizons
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muňoz
Dir. of Photography: Guillermo Navarro
Music: Javier Navarrete
Editor: Luis de la Madrid
Producer: Agustin Almodóvar, Berta Navarro
Production: El Deseo s.a., Tequila Gang, Anhelo Producciones
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Irene Visedo

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