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The Devil’s Backbone Case Study

jclarke | Thursday March 06, 2014

Categories: GCSE, WJEC GCSE, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, The Devil's Backbone, Genres & Case Studies, Drama, Horror, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

WJEC GCSE Film Studies Paper 2 Exploring Film Outside Hollywood: The Devil’s Backbone (2001 – Spain/Mexico)


In his book The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim writes that “The deep inner conflicts originating in our primitive drives and our violent emotions are all denied in much of children’s literature, and so the child is not helped in coping with them. But the child is subject to desperate feelings of loudness and isolation, and often experiences mortal anxiety.? [1]

This means that childhood is stereotypically associated with innocence and whilst this analysis is made in reference to literature it provides us with a rich and useful idea to hold in mind in our thinking about how The Devil’s Backbone functions as a movie. In thinking about the film, we will work towards developing a critical and investigative approach to it. Implicit in this is a sense, too of how an audience might respond to a given film text.

In this resource, then, we will consider the aesthetic (what the film looks like), technical and thematic issues on offer. As such, we’ll pay attention, to varying degrees to the film’s production and cultural context, its interest as a film, in terms of both macro and micro level features. To do this we’ll refer to several scenes, identify issues of genre and of authorship and also consider character, narrative, themes and issues. In terms of each of these points we will also consider the micro-level interest of mise-en-scene as the way in which these ideas are expressed.


The term representation refers to the ways in which characters, situations, images and sounds in a film stand for, or depict, aspects of the real world. Fantasy and horror though it is, The Devil’s Backbone is rooted in a real event. That said, it’s appropriate to note that there is potentially no single reality, but instead many versions of reality. Films re-present the world to us, and the visual power of...

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