|INTERVIEW - Page 1
GUILLERMO DEL TORO
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Feo Amante's Under the Microscope:
Last week in Manhattan I attended an advance screening of the new Guillermo Del Toro film, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. Having no advance knowledge of the film, and without a press release or even an article in hand, I went into the theater blind - no expectations. The title itself seemed to indicate that this was going to be some low-budget, indie-film experimentation, and I have to admit I was less than happy walking into the theater.Ah, but when will I learn? The title of the film is a reference to spina bifida, a genetic disease* that cripples children before they can even get their start in life. The title is not indicative of some Grade-B Ed Wood fiasco but is a profoundly insightful title worthy of such a great film. Paralleling spina bifida with the disease
A charismatic, soft-spoken man, Del Toro greeted fans and colleagues alike with the same genuine enthusiasm, anticipating audience response to his film like a child eagerly awaiting Christmas.
"This is a movie that I wanted to do for sixteen years before it came to be," Del Toro told us. "I wanted it to be my first film before CRONOS-" (a well-received 1993 retelling of the Vampire mythos, about an aging antique dealer who is stabbed by a mysterious object that creates a craving for blood) "-which will show you how completely deluded I am in life, thinking that I was going to get a ghost story with a war as a background for my first film.
"Also, it's a movie that is extremely autobiographical for me - not because I was part of the Spanish Civil War, which I was not - but because most everything that the kids live or experience in the movie were things that I saw as a child, and that includes hearing a ghost at the age of eleven, my one and only brush with the supernatural.
"And one day he said to me, 'When I die I'll come back and let you know if there's something there.' And at the time, that sounded really good." And I inherited the room after he passed away, and three years later, after he'd died, I was in the room and I started hearing a really, very sad human sigh, like a foot away from my head. One part of me really didn't get scared. I turned off the TV to investigate all the possibilities - was I breathing through my ears? Was the window open? Etcetera etcetera . . . and after I go through the room this voice becomes more and more irritated, and I recognized the timbre of the voice as my uncle and I ran away, never to return to that room.
"What struck me more about that voice, more than anything, was the sadness, and that's what I wanted to do, I wanted a ghost story at the bottom of a war that is all about sadness, and loss."
And this is exactly what he accomplishes. The Devil's Backbone succeeds on all levels, a riveting story about survival, with enough visual imagery to satisfy the artsy crowd, scary and haunting enough to satisfy genre lovers.
This interview copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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