It is 1939, the end of three years of bloody civil war in Spain, and General Franco's right-wing Nationalists are poised to defeat the left-wing Republican forces. A ten-year-old boy named Carlos, the son of a fallen Republican war hero, is left by his tutor in an orphanage in the middle of nowhere. The orphanage is run by a curt but considerate headmistress named Carmen and a kindly Professor Casares, both of whom are sympathetic to the doomed Republican cause. Despite their concern for him, and his gradual triumph over the usual schoolhouse bully, Carlos never feels completely comfortable in his new environment. First of all, there was that initial encounter with the orphanage's nasty caretaker, Jacinto, who reacts even more violently when anyone is caught looking around a particular storage room the one with the deep well. Second, and more inexplicable, is the presence of a ghost, one of the former occupants of the orphanage named Santi. Not long after Carlos' arrival, Santi ... Written by
The Spanish comic series "Paracuellos" by Carlos Giménez was an important source of inspiration. This semi-biographical work takes place in a Francoist orphanage during the early 50's. Giménez worked as a storyboard artist on this film. See more »
[voice over narration]
What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.
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This is not just an incredibly effective ghost story, but a cinematic masterpiece. Like his "Cronos," Del Toro has created a rich horror fable that is driven by 3-dimensional characters involved in a fascinating plot that leads to a wholly satisfying ending. With many developments along the way that shock, move, and thrill. And of course the political allegory and reality of the film, the Spanish Civil War, all the orphan boys of noble Loyalist fighters fighting their own war against a truly horrifying fascist villain, the young and handsome Jacinto, who is not without a sad ghost in his own past that feeds his destructiveness.
Del Toro is one of the most intelligent and humane directors working today, not something usually said about auteur in the horror genre. I have not seen "Hellboy" but think less of his US endeavors than these two Spanish masterworks...
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