INTERVIEW - Page 1
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JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
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
At home in the theater, relaxing against the back of a seat, mic in hand, Del Toro shared with the crowd a riveting tale from his childhood, the inspiration behind his riveting movie The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo).
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.
"I had inherited the room of my late uncle, who was one of my best friends in childhood, and he and I used to talk about horror, he took me to all the horror movies, all the great ones. He gave me a few of my first literary anthologies of horror.
"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.
Some people think I'm more important than you (I don't, but they do. You know how they are) and this is their (HA!) evidence.
Matt Jarbo's interview with Feo Amante at The Zurvivalist.
Researcher David Waldron, references my review of UNDERWORLD in the Spring 2005, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture entry, Role-Playing Games and the Christian Right: Community Formation in Response to a Moral Panic (downloadable pdf).
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