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The Devil's Backbone (2001)

El espinazo del diablo (original title)
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After Carlos - a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War - arrives at an ominous boys' orphanage, he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.

Director:

Guillermo del Toro
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4,708 ( 61)
6 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Marisa Paredes ... Carmen
Eduardo Noriega ... Jacinto
Federico Luppi ... Dr. Casares
Fernando Tielve ... Carlos
Íñigo Garcés ... Jaime
Irene Visedo ... Conchita
José Manuel Lorenzo José Manuel Lorenzo ... Marcelo
Francisco Maestre Francisco Maestre ... El Puerco (as Paco Maestre)
Junio Valverde ... Santi
Berta Ojea Berta Ojea ... Alma
Adrián Lamana Adrián Lamana ... Gálvez
Daniel Esparza Daniel Esparza ... Marcos
Miguel Ortiz
Juan Carlos Vellido
Javier Bódalo Javier Bódalo ... Búho (as Javier González Madrigal)
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Storyline

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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The living will always be more dangerous than the dead. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Spain | Mexico

Language:

Spanish

Release Date:

20 April 2001 (Spain) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Backbone See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$34,963, 25 November 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$754,749, 5 May 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film came together when Guillermo del Toro bumped into Pedro Almodóvar at the 1994 Miami Film Festival where he had just shown Cronos (1993). Almodovar told him that he had just seen his film and wanted to produce his next movie. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[voice over narration]
Casares: 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For my parents See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Holiday (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Una lágrima
Written by Eugenio Cardenas (as E. Cardenas) and Nicolás Verona (as N. Verona)
Performed by Carlos Gardel
Courtesy Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Masterful Spanish ghost story - an instant classic
6 May 2005 | by LibretioSee all my reviews

THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (El Espinazo del Diablo)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

During the Spanish Civil War, a young orphan boy (Fernando Tielve) is sent to an isolated boarding school where he encounters the ghost of a murdered child (Junio Valverde) who warns him of impending disaster...

A masterpiece. Filmed in Spain by writer-director Guillermo del Toro following his unhappy Hollywood debut (MIMIC), this spellbinding melodrama works both as an examination of the political turmoil which characterized the Spanish Civil War, and as a simple ghost story in which a tragic spirit seeks vengeance for a terrible crime. Employing restless camera-work and atmospheric set designs to their best advantage, del Toro visualizes his own script (co-written with Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz) as the story of a vulnerable child cast adrift in a strange new world, where he must contend not only with everyday problems (such as the school bully, Ínigo Garcés, whose motives are rather more complex than they first appear), but also his frequent encounters with the unhappy ghost, some of which are genuinely unsettling (watch out for the heart-stopping sequence in which Tielve is besieged in a closet by the enraged phantom).

Production values are first-class throughout, ranging from César Macarrón's evocative art direction and Salvador Mayolas' ultra-creepy sound design, through to Luis de la Madrid's crisp editing skills and Javier Navarrete's unforgettable music score. Visual effects and makeup designs are also superb, though deliberately underplayed for maximum emotional effect. The cast is toplined by Spanish movie veterans Marisa Paredes (a favorite of Pedro Almodóvar) and Federico Luppi (CRONOS), and there are impressive turns by Irene Visedo as a young woman whose loyalties are divided by circumstances, and rising star Eduardo Noriega (the Spanish equivalent of Brad Pitt) as Visedo's boyfriend, an orphan-turned-caretaker whose volatile nature leads to a dramatic conclusion, with appalling consequences for everyone around him. Tielve is magnificent as the wide-eyed innocent at the center of the narrative, and Garcés is every bit his equal as the bully who reclaims his dignity during a climactic showdown with the forces of evil. Released around the same time as THE OTHERS (2001) - another Spanish ghost story, filmed in English as a vehicle for Nicole Kidman - THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE was consigned to Art-house distribution by virtue of its status as a subtitled movie and suffered a comparative loss at the US box-office, though del Toro's magical fever dream is unquestionably the better of the two films.

(Spanish dialogue)


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