Del Toro and the Haunted War

Written by Kameron McBride

“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.”

This opening narration, spoken by the great Federico Luppi, begins Guillermo Del Toro’s 2001 film El Espinazo Del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), a ghost story set during the Spanish Civil War. The story centers around a 12-year-old boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) who is sent to an orphanage after his father dies fighting for the Reds in the war. The orphanage is run by Dr. Casares (Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) who shelter children of the Republican militia. The orphanage itself is set in the middle of a vast desert, the nearest town miles away and filled with fascist supporters, meaning that the orphans are completely isolated in an island surrounded by danger.

Continue reading