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Night of the Repeating Dead

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022240/00001

Material Information

Title: Night of the Repeating Dead A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Intersection of Children and Violence in Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone
Physical Description: 1 online resource (51 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: backbone, children, devil, film, guillermo, horror, violence
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Since the release of his first feature film, 1993's Cronos, director Guillermo del Toro has been attracting academic attention to his horrific, yet psychologically engaging works. Repeatedly creating unique, gothic worlds populated by fantastic monsters, child protagonists and brutal violence, he has drawn multiple scholars to look at how he has been received by his home country of Mexico, why his work has found crossover success in the U.S., and what the implications of his transnational status are. At the same time, though, there are still numerous relevant aspects of his work that have gone all but untouched. His repeated use of child characters and the violence done to them may be the most consistent theme in his films to go unexplored, and his 2002 film, The Devil's Backbone, is one of the most important places to investigate this concept. While there are multiple reasons to work with the figure of the child in del Toro?s film (understanding the child's place in modern horror, understanding the child's place in depictions of trauma, using the child to analyze cross-cultural representations of trauma), the clearest starting point may be found in del Toro's own words about how he wants to change the way adults understand and avoid the subject of children experiencing violence. Because of this, I have looked into of del Toro's past work and how he himself has specifically spoken about it. His words act as an excellent jumping off point for discussing his use of children in film. While numerous approaches are relevant in studying such a concept, there are three I feel are particularly important in The Devil's Backbone. The first is an analysis of del Toro's use of paratext--specifically the film's opening credits--in order to defuse the audience's understanding of the film and to create a noticeable wall between the audience and the fictional events onscreen. Next, through a psychoanalytic approach using the insights of modern horror texts such as Adam Lowenstein's Shocking Representation and Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws, is discussing how del Toro uses these paratextual elements to replicate the idea of the 'working through' process via the film's formal elements. Finally, Shoshana Felman's Writing and Madness lends insight into how this depiction of the psychoanalytic process involves viewers in the film's violent imagery in a way that gives them a further understanding of it. The larger goal of studying del Toro is not only to look at the director himself but also to look at how his films lend themselves to a further understanding of representations of trauma. As trauma studies struggles to make sense of our cultural representations of horrific imagery in a post-9/11 world, numerous lenses have been pointed at American works that have recently been attributed to the cultural climate. By looking to del Toro and his use of children, we may be able to see how American understandings of cross-cultural depictions of trauma cast the field in a new light.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Ongiri, Amy A.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2010-05-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022240:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022240/00001

Material Information

Title: Night of the Repeating Dead A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Intersection of Children and Violence in Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone
Physical Description: 1 online resource (51 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: backbone, children, devil, film, guillermo, horror, violence
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Since the release of his first feature film, 1993's Cronos, director Guillermo del Toro has been attracting academic attention to his horrific, yet psychologically engaging works. Repeatedly creating unique, gothic worlds populated by fantastic monsters, child protagonists and brutal violence, he has drawn multiple scholars to look at how he has been received by his home country of Mexico, why his work has found crossover success in the U.S., and what the implications of his transnational status are. At the same time, though, there are still numerous relevant aspects of his work that have gone all but untouched. His repeated use of child characters and the violence done to them may be the most consistent theme in his films to go unexplored, and his 2002 film, The Devil's Backbone, is one of the most important places to investigate this concept. While there are multiple reasons to work with the figure of the child in del Toro?s film (understanding the child's place in modern horror, understanding the child's place in depictions of trauma, using the child to analyze cross-cultural representations of trauma), the clearest starting point may be found in del Toro's own words about how he wants to change the way adults understand and avoid the subject of children experiencing violence. Because of this, I have looked into of del Toro's past work and how he himself has specifically spoken about it. His words act as an excellent jumping off point for discussing his use of children in film. While numerous approaches are relevant in studying such a concept, there are three I feel are particularly important in The Devil's Backbone. The first is an analysis of del Toro's use of paratext--specifically the film's opening credits--in order to defuse the audience's understanding of the film and to create a noticeable wall between the audience and the fictional events onscreen. Next, through a psychoanalytic approach using the insights of modern horror texts such as Adam Lowenstein's Shocking Representation and Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws, is discussing how del Toro uses these paratextual elements to replicate the idea of the 'working through' process via the film's formal elements. Finally, Shoshana Felman's Writing and Madness lends insight into how this depiction of the psychoanalytic process involves viewers in the film's violent imagery in a way that gives them a further understanding of it. The larger goal of studying del Toro is not only to look at the director himself but also to look at how his films lend themselves to a further understanding of representations of trauma. As trauma studies struggles to make sense of our cultural representations of horrific imagery in a post-9/11 world, numerous lenses have been pointed at American works that have recently been attributed to the cultural climate. By looking to del Toro and his use of children, we may be able to see how American understandings of cross-cultural depictions of trauma cast the field in a new light.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Ongiri, Amy A.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2010-05-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022240:00001


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NIGHT OF THE REPEATING DEAD: A PSYCHOANALYTIC APPROACH TO THE INTERSECTION OF CHILDREN AND VIOL ENCE IN GUILLERMO DEL TOROS THE DEVILS BACKBONE By JOSHUA COONROD A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008 1

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2008 Joshua Coonrod 2

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To my Dad, for teaching me to love movies. A nd to my Mom, who puts up with us while we watch them. 3

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS As all the work I put into this thesis is nothing compared to the work numerous people put into helping me finish it, I would like to th ank a few of the ones who played a part in its completion. First, Professor Amy Ongiri, the chair of my committee, has been the most important driving force in my work on horror film since arriving at the Univ ersity of Florida. I thank her for her interest and he r encouragement to stick to my guns and work on the projects that genuinely mattered to me. Professor Kenneth Kidd was just as diligent in supporting my desire to explore the intricate world of ch ildren and violence. He made me committed to finishing this project in a timely fashion so I co uld continue working on my future studies. Also, the teachings of Professor Anastasia Ulanwociz were vital in understand ing the intersection of children and trauma. This thesis originated in her class and would be al l the lesser without her input. Most importantly, though, it was the dive rse interests and astounding knowledge of all three of these people that ma de the final draft possible. My friends and family also deserve praise fo r their part in the two years this project has been incubating. My mother, Connie, and father, Joe, are as far removed from the work I do as can be, but that never stopped them from cheer ing me on, giving me a helping hand whenever I needed it, and making sure I knew that if ther e is anyone on earth who can do what I am doing, it is me. Amy, my sister, never wavered in her exci tement to see me finish and continues to push me to do more with my academic future. And while every one of my friends, in Gainesville and elsewhere, were integral in getting me through this project, a few were especially important. Chris Cowleys close friendship wa s just as important as his enor mous intellect and the insights he provide on trauma studies; in a number of last minutes crunches, he was my number one person to turn to, and I plan to keep doing so even as he continues his studies in Buffalo, NY. Peter DEttore and Angela Schlei n are the two people most responsible for keeping me sane over 4

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the last couple months. Both provided open ears and good hearts when I hit my most stressful points. Peters sense of humor and unfathomable patience carried me through a number of long, exhausting nights. And even from hundreds of mi les away, Angelas warmth and kindness fueled my determination to keep going. Finally, I need to thank Richard Paez. Without his homecooked meals, I would have forgotten what the point of all this was in the first place. 5

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................7 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................. .10 2 GUILLERMO DEL TORO....................................................................................................13 3 PARATEXT AND THE DEVILS BACKBONE.................................................................21 4 FREUD AND THE DE VILS BACKBONE.........................................................................32 5 FELMAN AND THE DE VILS BACKBONE......................................................................42 LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................49 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................51 6

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure page Figure 3-1 The hallway door.................................................................................................... ......28 Figure 3-2 The bomb being dropped.............................................................................................2 8 Figure 3-3 The wounded young boy..............................................................................................2 9 Figure 3-4 The young boy in the water.......................................................................................... 29 Figure 3-5 The blood in the water..................................................................................................30 Figure 3-6 The opening credit.................................................................................................. ......30 Figure 3-7 DVD option screen................................................................................................... ....31 Figure 3-8 The ghost........................................................................................................... ...........31 7

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Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts NIGHT OF THE REPEATING DEAD: A PSYCHOANALYTIC APPROACH TO THE INTERSECTION OF CHILDREN AND VIOL ENCE IN GUILLERMO DEL TOROS THE DEVILS BACKBONE By Joshua Coonrod May 2008 Chair: Amy Ongiri Major: English Since the release of his first feature film, 1993s Cronos director Guillermo del Toro has been attracting academic atten tion to his horrific, yet psyc hologically engaging works. Repeatedly creating unique, gothic worlds popula ted by fantastic monsters, child protagonists and brutal violence, he has drawn multiple schola rs to look at how he has been received by his home country of Mexico, why his work has found crossover success in the U.S., and what the implications of his transnational status are. At the same time, though, there are still numerous relevant aspects of his work that have gone all but untouched. His repeated use of child characters and the violence done to them may be the most consistent theme in his films to go unexplored, and his 2002 film, The Devils Backbone is one of the most important places to investigate this concept. While there are multiple reasons to work with the figure of the child in del Toros film (understanding the childs place in modern horror, understanding the childs place in depictions of trauma, using the child to an alyze cross-cultural representati ons of trauma), the clearest starting point may be found in del Toros own words about how he wants to change the way adults understand and avoid the su bject of children experiencing violence. Because of this, I have 8

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9 looked into of del Toros past work and how he himself has specifically spoken about it. His words act as an excellent jumping off point for discussing his use of children in film. While numerous approaches are relevant in stud ying such a concept, there are three I feel are particularly important in The Devils Backbone The first is an analysis of del Toros use of paratext specifically the f ilms opening credits in orde r to defuse the audiences understanding of the film and to create a noticeable wall betwee n the audience and the fictional events onscreen. Next, through a psychoanalytic a pproach using the insights of modern horror texts such as Adam Lowensteins Shocking Representation and Carol Clovers Men, Women and Chainsaws is discussing how del Toro uses these pa ratextual elements to replicate the idea of the working through process via the films formal elements. Finally, Shoshana Felmans Writing and Madness lends insight into how this depiction of the psychoanalytic process involves viewers in the films violent imagery in a way that gives them a further understanding of it. The larger goal of studying del Toro is not only to look at the director himself but also to look at how his films lend themselves to a furthe r understanding of representations of trauma. As trauma studies struggles to make sense of our cu ltural representations of horrific imagery in a post-9/11 world, numerous lenses have been pointed at American works that have recently been attributed to the cultural climat e. By looking to del Toro and his use of children, we may be able to see how American understandin gs of cross-cultural depictions of trauma cast the field in a new light.

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION That Guillermo del Toro has become one of the most successful foreign filmmakers in America is surprising. Del Toro has a reputati on for twisting conventions and defying morals that U.S. audiences rarely see challenged. Whethe r he is telling a ghost story that makes sparse use of a ghost ( The Devils Backbone [2001]), a childrens fairytale that is too grim for anyone but adults ( Pans Labyrinth [2006]), or graphically depicting the harm or mutilation of young children (Cronos [1993] Mimic [1997] Hellboy [2004] etc.), del Toro is consistently finding ways to shock viewers and confront their view s on violence and trauma in cinematic imagery. His films take numerous opportunities to display explicitly violent visuals, even when dealing with taboo or controversial subjects such as chil dren or religion. In fact he seems to relish opportunities to display bloodshed not just when audiences would find it unnerving but when most would see it as unt hinkable or inappropriate. Such has done little to curtail interest in de l Toro; in fact, his notoriety amongst American audiences only seems to be rising. After a string of solidly performing films, his recent release Pans Labyrinth became one of the all-time top performi ng foreign language film at the U.S. box office, and he was offered the opportun ity to direct the eagerly awaited Hobbit prequels to the blockbuster Lord of the Rings films. And while he has receive d a warm reception in Hollywood, he has also garnered intense interest from the academic community. Scholarship on del Toro has addressed the masculinity/femininity, wartime pa rallels, and fantastic imagery of his work, largely in response to his first feature film, 1993s Cronos and his most recent, 2006s Pans Labyrinth Scholarly views on del Toro vary little in tone or content, though; there is no overwhelmingly positive or negative tone to the criticism of hi s films, with most critics opting 10

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for different readings of the political undertones found in his wo rk. The only consensus to be found is that del Toro is undeniably of interest. What most critics miss, though, is just how precisely and powerfully del Toro visualizes the child in the chaotic violence that inhabits his films. While most academic attention to del Toro acknowledges his child characte rs mainly the protagonists of Devils Backbone and Pans Labyrinth Carlos and Ofelia rare ly are they referenced as child characters. Instead, their actions and journeys are discussed no differently than if they were adult characters. However, audiences particularly U.S. audiences accustomed to seeing children safely positioned in film, even violent genre film will undou btedly receive these characters di fferently than if they were adult characters. Therein lies a fascinating aspect of del Toros work how he manages to work with the image of the child in film but do so in a way that will not aliena te the intended-audience of his R-rated films. The mani pulation, mutilation, and destruction of the childs body has long been a harrowing issue in U.S. cinema, one that infamously gore-oriented horror directors such as David Cronenberg, Wes Craven, and John Carpente r have been hesitant to approach in their work. I will argue, though, that del Toro, when ma king the child the primary object of his films, manages to create complex scen arios by working with a mix of filmic paratexts and psychology that help make an adult audience comfortable w ith experiencing the visu al interaction of the child and graphic violence. The processes by which del Toro makes the au dience comfortable in viewing this subject matter are various and psychologically comp lex. I will focus on del Toros 2002 film, The Devils Backbone and the two major tactics the film uses to engage the audience with the films more disturbing moments. The first occurs in the films opening moments when the intertwining of abstract imagery with the films paratextual elements, the opening credits forces the viewer to 11

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12 analyze the film as film; this juxtaposition dissuades the audiences from becoming so closely situated in the narrative that they disassociate from the idea that they are watching a film. In doing so, the film creates a particular kind of distance between the audience and film. I believe it is this distance that allows even encourages the audiences interact ions with the film and repositions how the audience feels toward the film s child characters. In essence, I hope to discuss both why film as a medium is partic ularly problematic for exploring the abuse of children and how del Toro uses filmic devices to overcome the audiences resistance to viewing children experiencing violence. This argument will also be important in read dressing previous criticisms of del Toros work. While the child is important in del Toros films, it is by no means the only or most relevant aspect that needs to be engaged. Instead, by looking at the child figure and how it has operated in The Devils Backbone and Pans Labyrinth we can gain further insight into how the child in del Toros films affects and enab les his depictions of politics and history.

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CHAPTER 2 GUILLERMO DEL TORO Beyond just realizing that del Toro tends to focus on child characters, scholarship on him also needs to address how he film ically visualizes the child. Realizing the origins of del Toros stylistic ideas and ideology is imperative to unde rstanding his beliefs on both violence in film and children in film. Via a brief autobiographi cal sketch of del Tor o, the sources for the ideologies, agendas or insights he hopes to pursue in his filmmaking become clearer. Del Toros comments about his past act as an indispensa ble frame for seeing how he contemplates and constructs his signatu re filmic devices. As stated before, del Toro has always shown an affinity for child characters. Mimic revolved around a plague that was specifically killing children; th e supernatural protagonist of Hellboy is depicted as an often sensitive, adolesce nt-like being despite hi s size and age; and del Toro has taken integral production roles in child-focused Spanish horror films such as The Orphanage (2007). Time and again, del Toros work is preoccupied with the child. And not only do all his films revolve around children, but every one of them revolves around children experiencing trauma, physical and emotional pain, a nd death. This use of the child in del Toros films is an issue that merits academic investigation. Because of the natu re of his films, such research cannot be done without specifically addressing the releva nce that violence plays in relationship to children in his film s. In particular, one of the most important questions this raises is how are adult audiences are expected to resp ond to seeing children ex posed to such graphic violence. A long-held taboo subject, del Toro not only approaches it but exposes his audiences to it with unrelenting imagery. What we must ask th en is, how has del Toro made adult audiences comfortable with this subject matter? I will argue that he has done so by mastering numerous 13

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filmic devices that force adult audiences to call into question exactly how they see the subject of children experiencing violence. I argue that del Toro wants a dult audiences to perceive these events through the eyes of the child character. We find support for this argu ment when looking at how del Toro uses his own childhood as the template fo r his films. Reflecting on his ch ildhood, he links a particular kind of spiritual understanding to it. In the process, he implies th e belief that certain moments of spirituality are only possible during youth. In particular, he has stated The most spiritual time for me in childhood was actually at night, when I was alone. Thats why the key scenes in Cronos and The Devils Backbone happened to children in bedthe girl in Cronos leaves the bed to see her grandfather, the kid in The Devils Backbone leaves the bed to go meet a ghost. Pans Labyrinth is the same (qtd. in Mitchell 98). With this comment, he equates childhood with a sp ecific idea of spirituality. As he goes on to explain, though, his goal is to recapture these moments cine matically. In revealing his relationship to the onscreen imagery, he inherently assumes a particular recep tion of the film that all audience members are supposed to have. This pr ocess speaks to his larger filming concerns how to envision a process that has become lost on adults but display it in a way that still manages to reconnect with an adult audience. That said, for all his passion for finding ways to depict childhood, del Toro does not approach the subject matter with the cautious, co nservative tones often related to cinematic depictions of the child. As he has also stated, his interest in film ing the child stems just as much from his experiences as a young boy when his h ip uncle would take him to ultra-violent underground horror films. Here, del Toro does more than encourage onscreen intersections between children and violence; he asks society as a whole to be more open in general about how the connection between children and violence can be viewed: 14

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I want my child to experience life, includi ng violence, hand and hand with me. If my child gets beaten at school, Im not against a fight. Im against me not having a chance to discuss it with her. I think theres a difference between protec ting and shielding. Thats very hard to define, but you start to understand when you s ee the amount of domestic violence thats exerted against children versus the amount of caution thats exerted in favor of children in everyday things on TV. I think the problem with that kind of political correctness is how fast it extends to all of us. How vast the censorship is. It s eems like they are trying to shield a nation of children against violence by censoring the cont ent of a movie or TV program. Today, it seems, the way to deal with a terrorist attack is to negate violence in movies and TV. I find this absolutely atrocious (qtd. in Chun 30). Here, del Toro speaks to two ideas that challenge the filmmaking process. The first problem is the resistance to having children as an audience fo r violent material. Immedi ately, this resistance limits the outlets a director has for presenting material and finding the broadest audience for it. While the fantastic images and fa irytale-like story of a film like Pans Labyrinth may be a perfect replication of the typical fairytales told to children, the film loses a potential audience when it is deemed too violent for children. Del Toro points out that this urge to be shielded from violence often carries over to adult audiences, particularly in cinematic violence dealing with children. In the process, he asks the very quest ion we will pursue further: in what way can a director defuse an audiences resistance to seeing violence and children in the same spheres without avoiding the subject altogether? Interestingly, other scholars may have s poken to this question but not via a direct discussion of the child in del Toros films. Inst ead, much attention has been paid to how he has adapted the style, or even just the marketing, of his films to fit the status quo. As Antonio Lazaro-Reboll points out in his article on The Devils Backbone s transnational qualities, del Toros Spanish-language films, while typically successful with U.S. audiences in the long run, start by struggling to get past cu ltural differences. In the promoti ons for the films, the horrific 15

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and melodramatic elements are pushed to the front, while the culturally and historically specific ingredients are downplayed (45). With the cultu ral aspects of the film being too alien to Americans to be used as selling points, the marke ting of the film relied on representing itself as a generic entry into a genre that was currently popular in the U.S. the PG-13-rated, tension-based ghost film that included hits such as The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, and The Others. However, these cultural signifiers are not the only thing that must be downplayed to cater to the sensibilities of U.S. audiences. Again, we re turn to the notorious squeamishness of U.S. audiences in regards to children and violence as another cultural norm that clashes with the culture that produced the film. And in that conflict, we see that if the producers wanted to get the film outside of the art hous e and turn it into a global popu lar product (Lazaro-Reboll 46), they would have to face a more globalized reaction to cinema tic violence involving children. However, the focus on the globalization of de l Toros work has done little to explore depictions of the child in his films. Instead, most of it looks to how del Toros crisscrossing between Spanish-language and English-language film s have affected his depiction of political inclinations. Much of the initial attention paid to him was brought about by his directorial debut, Cronos in 1993. The film tells the story of an elderly antique dealer who becomes attached to a vampiric pennant in the shape of an insect. The film won the critic s prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, along with nine awards at The Ar iels, the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars (Chun 28). However, just as much attention was calle d to del Toro as one of the new Mexican filmmakers weaned on a heady mix of Holly wood movies, rock music, comic books, Looney Tunes, MTV, and Walt Disney. (Tsao 30). He wa s categorized with other Mexican filmmakers, such as Alfonso Cuaron (who has since gone to direct American features such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men ) and Carlos Carerra ( The Crime of Father 16

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Amaro ), whose American influences were seen as responsible for a strong film style that gave them a chance to cross over to the American mainstream. At the same time, though, critics have called attention to the fact that these directors were less likely to approach political discussions relevant to Mexico. After the revolution in Mexican film in the 1970s during which it was looked at as the primary medium for voicing concerns about soci al unrests, the new breed of Mexican filmmakers had their eyes too trained on developing a glossy, Hollywood-oriented style to focus on issues such as political turmoil. Initi al writings on del Toros work were based just as much on the Americanizing effect of globaliz ation on Mexican cinema as it was on any of the individual themes or visuals he explored in Cronos Such a categorizing of del To ro set the stage for him to be analyzed as a product of transnationalism and globalization. As soon as Cronos was released, multiple scholars asked the question of just how long it would take a direct or steeped in Americanized understandings of pop culture and genres to start fiel ding offers from Hollywood. Not long; del Toros next film was an American horror production entitled Mimic Since then, del Toros filmic output has been split almost evenly between big-budget American spectacle films Blade II (2002), Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) and smaller scale, Spanish-la nguage films that blend fantasy and war-torn realities The Devils Backbone and Pans Labyrinth/El Labertino del fauno The American films have drawn little in the way of critical or academic attention (minus some surprisingly positive feedback from Christian pu blications generated by the Catholic imagery and values incorporated in Hellboy ) (Stagnaro 15-16). The spiritual, political, and psychological implications of the Cronos/Devils Backbone/Pans Labyrinth have been much more appealing to scholars. 17

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The question becomes, though, why has the a cademic attention to del Toros work become so narrow as to exclude the numerous other aspects of his f ilms that are worthy of discussion? Mainly, scholarshi p on del Toro breaks down into three major categories: 1.) religious scholarship that speaks to the idea of sp irituality in del Toros films; 2.) scholarship on Mexican cinema that speaks to del Toros place in a generation of upcoming filmmakers; and 3.) specific film articles that speak to multiple themes explored in del Toros work. While the religious scholarship on del Toro is surprisingly prevalent, it is most often printed in Christian publications and only addresses spir itual themes related to Christianity in del Toros work. While this work often makes passing references to the children in del Toros work, the theme of the child is rarely explored and the tone of the wo rk veers away from the academic. Scholarship on Mexican cinema repeatedly speaks to the idea of the new Mexican cinema, which includes directors like del Toro and the pr eviously discussed Cuaron and Carre ra. Such work is prevalent, practiced by scholars such as Andrew Willis and Lazaro-Reboll. However, the work on del Toro continually situates him in th e status discussed above as an upcoming Mexican filmmaker, defined by his American-influenced style and the absence of polit ical discussions relevant to Mexico in his work. It rarely if ever fo cuses on more specific content in his work. While one might assume that th e full-length articles speaking specifically to del Toro and films are more varied, such is not usually the case. First, writing specific to del Toros first film, Cronos is based almost entirely on the Americani zed-styled found in the new Mexican cinema scholarship discussed above. And wh ile there is some commentary on The Devils Backbone most work on del Toro has been inspired by Pans Labyrinth Repeatedly, these articles speak to two ideas: the first is the paralleling of fantas y with war-time violence (with the depiction of war-time violence always being privileged over th e depiction of violence done specifically to 18

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children.) In articles by Michae l Atkinson and Paul Julian Smit h, the major point of discussion becomes how the fantastic elements of Pans Labyrinth can envision war-time violence differently than the realistic elements and to wh at end. The other issue often discussed in regards to these films is how the depicti on of this same political violence is inspired by the transnational qualities of the films productions. Such arti cles, again worked on by scholars like LazaroReboll, take the films status as hybrid Mexican -Spanish productions (D el Toro is a Mexican director, while his frequent pr oducers Pedro and Augustin Almodova r are Spanish) and speak to how this is reflected in thei r narratives and depic tions of politics. Again, though, their major concerns return to how the films fantasy elements act solely as references to war or politics. Gender and sexuality rarely are emphasized in anal ysis of del Toros work, but I would be remiss if I did not at least mention Ann Daviss article on masculinity and femininity in The Devils Backbone. Davis interprets images of the monstrous fantastic in Devils Backbone as a way to combat the virile masculinity associated with fa scist forces in the Spanish Civil War. While her reading does not speak specifically to the subject of the child, it does go further than most any article to break the rut of del Toro scholarship. In the end, though, I do not wish to argue that the figure of the child in del Toros films is more relevant than these subjects that have already been much-discussed. In fact, I believe further study of the child in del Toros film would ultimately serve to benefit these current discourses on the director. How the representati ons of the child protagonists speak to specific cultures would be undeniably useful to further study of the cross-cultu ral, political inclinations of del Toros films. And the fact that del Toros films are representing the imagination of his child characters is integral to the study of how del Toro depicts real-world violence through fantasy imagery. Interestingly, many of these articles will make quick reference to the children-oriented 19

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20 nature of the films, calling them child-cen tric (Akinson 52) or pointing to the young brother/sister dynamic of Backbone and Labyrinth (Kermode 22). However, these ideas are never actually explored, and the relevan ce of the child in these films is quickly forgotten or dropped. I hope to remedy this by speaking to what del Toro is able to accomplish filmically when depicting the child. In order to do so, I will show, via a study of The Devils Backbone s paratext and a psychoanalytic reading of the film, how we can begin to see the child in del Toros films.

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CHAPTER 3 PARATEXT AND THE DE VILS BACKBONE To understand del Toros filmic representation of the child, we start at an obvious place: the beginning of the film. Del Toro opens The Devils Backbone with a series of images that beg to be analyzed not just by academic scholar s, but by the films general audience. The introduction of a number of abstract scenes will be separated from the standard narrative plot by the films opening credits. On ce the narrative begins, the us e of abstract imagery and experimentalism is pushed to the side. No fourth walls are broken, few complex camera angles call attention to the film as f ilm, and the events unfold in a clear, chronological order. The audience is seemingly meant to respond to the film via the window into another world methodology that begs them to forget that they are watching a film. In order to understand how this makes the initial imagery relevant, though, we must first understand the idea of filmic paratext and how it causes the audience to reassess a film in general. The idea of the paratext was initially pr esented by Gerard Ginette, who wanted to define the information outside of a book that allowe d audiences to understa nd the book as a singular text. He pointed to the exterior presentation of a book, name of the author, title, and what follows as it meets the eye of the docile reader as the defining elements of the paratext (261). It was roughly 14 years later that Geor g Stanitzek attempted to redefine the idea of the paratext in the age of new media, applying it mainly to films, as they were exhi bited theatrically, on VHS, DVD, television, and the internet In doing so, he pointed out how the difference between book paratexts and new media paratexts played different roles in the viewers unders tanding of the texts, specifically stating a comparison of film and literary paratexts does have limitations; namely, both kinds of paratexts refer to texts as structures of individual work s with their own contoured boundaries. Just as a book has two covers, a titl e, an imprint, and so on, a film-at least 21

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this type of film-has opening and closing cr edits, and so on. And t hus a book can function as a filmic organizer of communication, as a kind of natural delineation of the entire work (44). Via Stanitzeks argument, we see that the opening and closing credits opera te as the contours for an entire film. An important idea he raises in relationship to film, though, is how this organization ends up forming exactly what the en tire film is. As can be seen in innumerable films over the years, the credits do not always frame every moment of the cinematic narrative. Credits can be overlaid over opening narra tive images, or, as is the case with The Devils Backbone, filmic credits can appear after narrativ e information has already been presented. While this discussion of paratext may init ially seem random in the larger issue of The Devils Backbone s depiction of the child, an un derstanding of the films paratext is integral to understanding how the audiences reception of the film operates. There are two forms of paratextual information in particular that are relevant to The Devils Backbone s depiction of violence and the child. The most obvious occurs during the opening credits. When the film begins, the viewer is presente d a dark background with the ph rase Augusta y Pedro Almodovar presentan spelled out in glowing gold letter s. This same goldletters-on-black-background approach will go on for five sets of credits, a nnouncing the producers of the film and that the film is by Guillermo del Toro. The information is consistent with the introductory credit information that opens most films. Before going further than these five credits, though, images begin to appear on screen without credit text. Th e image of a hallway door appears (Figure 3-1); as the camera moves through the door into da rkness, the screen goes black. The image of a planes bottom hatch then app ears, and the viewer sees a bomb dropped to the ground below (Figure 3-2). The planes hatch frames th e scene of multiple bombs exploding on the ground before the screen fades to black. Next, the f ilm fades into the image of a young boy lying on the 22

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ground, bleeding from a head wound as another young boy cradles his head (Figure 3-3). The film fades again into a murky shot, and through a flurry of bubbles, the viewer begins to make out the image of the young boy, tied up, motionless, and still bleeding, floating in the water (Figure 3-4). Once again, the image fades, this time into a shot of the other young boy crying over a pool as a growing blood spot can be seen in the water (Figure 3-5) Finally, the film will fade into an ambiguous amber color as the words Marisa Paredes appear at the bottom of the screen (Figure 3-6). From here the opening credits begin again, superimposed over the abstract amber coloring (which will eventual ly turn out to be the color of the rum or limbo water that the character of Dr. Casares sells to local townspeople.) At the same time, these images are accompanied by a voiceover. The voice which sounds like a baritone old man cryptically as ks the question, What is a ghost? A tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and time 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. Again, without the developmen t of a narrative, these words appear utterly abstract; they are as impossible to construct into a chronological story as the (seemingly) random images they accompany. The question becomes what is to be done with these images when placed at this point in the film? As Stanitzek has previously stated, th e book-oriented connotations of paratext theory lead to an understanding that these credit s should frame the beginning of the film. The introductory credits do not actually end until the film fades into an image of a car driving in the desert at the 3:40 mark. At this point, the audience is introduced to the character of Carlos on his way to a boys school and a clear, straight forward narrative begins. Because Stanitzeks filmic paratextual theory offers no firm understa nding of how the framing of the initial images 23

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inside the credits are supposed to operate, we must construct our own lens through which to view them. Potentially the most immediate course of action the viewer can take is to create correlations between the introductor y images and the descriptions in the voiceover. The abstract quality of the sequence all but demands such acti ons. The framing of the first shot the entering of the door to the question What is a ghost? leads the viewer to believe that through the door lies an inevitable answer to the question. The opening of the planes hatch as the bomb drops clearly connects to the idea of wa r as a tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and time again. The childs bleeding scalp is an obvious moment of pain; th e position of the child never wavers as he sinks in the water, leading to im age of suspension while the murky color of the water replicates the idea of a blurred photograph. And possibly the most obvious of all is the amber color that overtakes the screen as the voic eover references an inse ct trapped in amber. What can be gleamed from these connections is not just that the film is attempting to answer the question of what is a ghost?; th e voiceover implies that images enfolding in front of the viewer are the very images that define a ghost. Laura Mulveys notion of still and moving im ages reinforces this approach. As she discusses in Death 24x a Second the notion of life on film is captured via movement. Once the film is slowed down to a single frame, the absen ce of motion reinforces the idea of stillness or death found in photography. Stripped of meaning or context, the image simply becomes a representation of death. Simila rly, these initial images in Devils Backbone while in motion, are still stripped of the motions that come before or after them. Su ch a presentation of the images robs them of a potential context. They float out side of the film, pinned in by the two sets of 24

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opening credits and doomed to operate as nothing more than a dead representation of life without context. The questions created by the tactic are a.) how are these images ultimately enlivened by the narrative that follows them and b.) to what en d is this tactic being used? A reconstruction of the narrative using the film-opening images is a ll that is needed to explain the first question (though some degree of analysis will help explain how the recreation works, as opposed to just summarizing how the scenes are revisited.) But th e explanation of to what end the images are being used is more complex. I will argue that de l Toro is attempting to cinematically represent something like a psychological process onscreen, si milar to the mental condition Freud describes in Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through. When seeing how this visual dividing of the preand post-credit imagery creates a represen tation of this process, we will have a frame for discussing how the opening-credit enclosed shots function in regards to the audiences reception of the violence that follows in the film. The films more straightforward cinematic stylings begin as Carlos reaches the boys school. Thinking he is only visiting, Carlos is harassed by the other students who mock his posh attire and refer to him as lil fag. After this se quence, the viewer sees the car Carlos arrived in pulling away, and Carlos runs after it unsuccessfu lly. Carlos reluctantly begins the process of incorporating himself into the schoo l; at the same time, he also be gins to encounter the ghost of a young boy a young boy that looks similar to the one the audience saw bleeding from the head in the films introductory images. The first encounter occurs as Carlos is trying to sneak out of a locked kitchen where he has gone against the sc hools rules to retrie ve water. As the ghost nears him, Carlos struggles through a doorway and refuses to lay eyes on the ghost. He breaks free of the door and runs into the schools open courtyard just as th e ghost is about to touch him. 25

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Obviously, the interaction of children and ghosts is not a rarity, be it in childrens fiction or simply fiction involving children. Children have figured prominently in modern ghost stories at least since 1898 with Henry James Turn of the Screw and the evolution of childrens literature has relied heavily on fantasy and horror narratives that often feat ure the figure of the ghost. However, the depiction of the ghost can take innumerable forms, some that imagine it as a potentially abstract psychological force ( Turn of the Screw ) and some that depict the ghost as a character as fleshed-out and humanized as to relegate humanity to a background status in the narrative. While it would be stretching to say that no two images of the fi gure of the ghost are exactly alike, one of my goa ls here is to focus specifically on how the ghost in The Devils Backbone can be read as being meant to appeal to a specifically adult sensibility. Before addressing a potentially Freudian reading, though, one more specific example of paratext it might help to analyze is the op tion screen of the DVD me nu. As title screens to DVDs (including the Play Movie, Subtitles and Special Features options) often do, the introduction begins with a collag e of images relating to the film. After the FBI warnings and previews fade, the image onscreen begins by pa ssing through a window, passing an image of the films ghost, and comes to rest on the image of a young boy staring at th e waving streamers tied to the top of a bomb (Figure 3-7). However, wh ereas DVD menus most often continually repeat these opening montages, that of The Devils Backbone remains on a relatively short loop. The young boy does not move; the bomb is still, and on ly the boys clothes and streamers on the bomb move as both are blown by the wind. The image repeats, all but still, calling attention to the fact that the character is immobile despit e the passage of time; understanding such a notion will go on to be integral to understandi ng how the ghost in the film functions. 26

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The image of the child watching the streamer s on the bomb blow in the wind acts as a perfect framing device for understanding the ghost itself. The visual acts bot h as a still and as a moving image. The fluttering of the streamers and the young boys clothes clearly depict motion via a sequence of frames that are denoting a passi ng of time. However, the child appears still in the moment, unable (or unwilling) to move. The vi ewer is given just enough motion to know that time is moving forward, but the child is unable to move with it. The f act that the DVD title screen simply chooses to loop this image instead of returning to the other images it depicts before the loop begins reinforces the idea of being tr apped in an inescapable moment of time. This sets up a reading of the ghos t itself (Figure 3-8). Bodily, th e ghost appears very similar to the boy with the head wound the viewer sees in th e films introductory cr edits. He appears in a dull blue-gray color, though, with lines tracing hi s face and wound. He looks to be in a state of decay, with small, unidentifiable debris fl oating around the outskirts of his form. Most importantly in this analysis, though, is the stream of blood that continually floats up from the childs skull before disappearing into an ether eal nothing. The image of decay helps the viewer to recognize the trapping of the ghost in a particular moment; as the decay never grows better or worse, it becomes easy to understand the image of the ghost is, in this way, static. What arguably does not remain static, though, is the continual blood flow from his head. It continues to flow throughout a period in the film (at least weeks) that would inevitabl y lead to the draining out of any real body. The persistent state of bleeding reinforces the idea of the loop; not simply that the ghost is trapped in time, but is reliving a cer tain moment time and tim e again. Interestingly enough, though, flashing back to the introductory DVD screen, the still image we see is not of the ghost. It is that of Carlos himself. And here, we can begin to explore how del Toro visualizes the correlation between the two. 27

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Figure 3-1 The hallway door Figure 3-2 The bomb being dropped 28

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Figure 3-3 The wounded young boy Figure 3-4 The young boy in the water 29

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Figure 3-5 The blood in the water Figure 3-6 The opening credit 30

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31 Figure 3-7 DVD option screen Figure 3-8 The ghost

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CHAPTER 4 FREUD AND THE DE VILS BACKBONE To understand what the visualiz ation of Carlos and the ghost accomplishes, it may help to first turn to Adam Lowensteins 2005 text on trauma in horror film, Shocking Representation Lowenstein points to the horror genre as a genre obsessed with the idea of loss and death, and the trauma created by them. What he asks, though, is how the horror film as a visual medium is able to represent these concepts. In particular, he turns to Freuds 1914 essay Remembering, Repeating and Working Through, where he states Freud draws clear distinctions between the two different processes individua l may undergo when found with th e traumatic loss of a deeply valued object (3). He goes on to state how past works that have been acclaimed for representing this psychological process attempt to depict it via realist rather than modernist modes (4). In other words, past artistic works have simply tried to represent or discuss this process in the most straightforward manner possible; horror fi lm, however, uses moments of abstraction and allegory to shock the viewer into seeing alternate ways to understand this trauma. The question we face is, where does del Toros work stand in this process? How has he managed to filmically achieve th e same moments of shocked repres entation that Lowenstein sees in the work of Mike Powell, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg? And most importantly to our discussion, how does del Toros use of the child in particular allo w his filmic representation of this idea? The Freudian concept that Lowenstein is discussing is cruc ial to answering these questions. One of Freuds best known works, the ar ticle focuses on an evol ution of the diagnosis and treatment process in psychoanalysis. Previo usly, psychoanalytical technique had consisted in bringing directly into focus the moment at wh ich the symptom was formed, and in persistently endeavoring to produce the mental processes involv ed in the situation, in order to direct their discharge along the path of c onscious activity (Freud 147). Afte r further study, the method was 32

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changed to focus on studying what was curren tly on the mind of the patient. Instead of immediately trying to jump into the past a nd see what the patient remembered, this new technique first looked for a sign of some kind of resistance in the patient s current life. In doing so, the flaws in focusing only on memory and its ab ility to heal were revealed. Only by focusing on the present could the relevance of the past be fully understood. By finding the point when the films narrativ e and cinematic style stabilize, we can see how del Toro might represent that idea. As stated before, the narrative begins to stabilize when Carlos reaches the school. At that point, the f ilm does away with the abstract imagery, and the audience is presented clear esta blishing shots of Carlos reachi ng the school, meeting the other children, and his tutor telli ng Carmen, the head of the school, about him. It is at this point when we learn of the trauma Carlos has unknowingly experienced; his father has died in the war. However, the depiction of events gives Carlos no time to realize or understand what is occuring. After Carlos is abandoned at the school, the f ilms pace increases dramatically. Carlos is depicted incorporating himself into the schools culture, learning the adults and childrens rules, and trying to find way to make peace with th e other boys. Through this rapid pacing, though, the film quickly makes all traces of Carloss father absent. By introducing the information about Carlos fathers death just before a flurry of active scenes, the f ilm manages to bury this integral information before the audience has time to inco rporate it and what it means to Carlos. With such pacing, del Toro manages to mimic the id ea of having crucial ev eryday information be buried under the hectic pace of everyday life. What the audience sees the adults doing to Carlos in scenes such as the one where Dr. Casares trie s to drum up conversation about a book Carlos is reading is actually what the film is doing to the audience. It is presenting information to them only to try and make them forget it as quickly as possible. 33

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And just as we can read the depiction of Carloss introduction as a mimicking of a psychological process, so can we with the ghost he will encounter. If we see the ghost as existing in a constant state of repetition, we find furt her evidence of this mimicry not just in the appearance of the ghost, but in its actions. Each time the ghost is introduced, th e scene is the same. The location be it a kitchen, a hallway, or an underground pool will be dark, isolated, and cramped. The ghost appears at the furthest po ssible distance from Carlos. While there seem to be few rules as to where the ghost can materi alize and how it must move it continually allows Carlos to be just outside of its grasp. Here, the audience begins to realize the sense of repetition involved in the encounters. Moving back to Freud and the idea that a trauma is repeated when not dealt with, the audience experiences this re peated pattern only to question, What will end it? Whereas the fact that information is being hidden from Carlos is ac tually being hidden from the audience as well, this repetition calls the au diences attention to it. In doing so, the audience is led to question when the break in the visual pattern (isolation of Ca rlos, appearance of the ghost, fleeing of Carlos) will occur. The difference between these two processes how the film disguises Carloss situation by not visualizing signifiers of it but makes the repetition involving the ghost clear will extend to how they are completed. Again, the reality of Carloss situation is buried amongst straightforward interacti ons with the older males at the schoo l. It cannot be experienced through filmic style but must read through narrative inte ractions. Viewers will find Carlos, upon arriving at the facility, is at first outs poken and resistant to the wills of those around him. Once he fails to catch the car that abandons him at the school though, his demeanor changes noticeably. He quickly becomes subservient to those around him and takes orders from Carmen, the old man, Jacinto, and Jaime, the oldest boy. None of these characters seem especially happy with Carloss 34

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presence. Carmen keeps the same distance from him that she does all the children; the old man humors him by talking about Carloss surface intere sts; Jacinto avoids him and goes as far as to slice his cheek when the child infuriates him; and Jaime consistently torments him by ordering him around and forcing him to suffer indignities. Carlos seems to continually look up to these characters in order to find one that acts as a father figure. He, however, has yet to ever acknowledge the death of his actual father. And while he seems to be performing a desperate acting out in the process, nothing of the films form calls attention to it. There is no clearly structured repetition that finds Carlos going from one father figure to their next. There are no formal recreations of this psyc hosis. Again, it lies buried, not to be spelled out for the viewer, but only to be read if the viewer so chooses. Even in the films fina le, when Carlos seems to evolve beyond this, there are few formal signs of the change Carlos does take on th e role of an authority figure; he organizes the childrens escape from their prison, he sets up the childrens attack on Jacinto, and he is ultimately the one who delivers Jacinto to Santi. In the films final moments, his leading of the boys out of the school seems to realize clearly that he as a child, has taken on the role of the adult. But del Toro offers no simp le visual signifier to inform audience of this potentially upsetting concept. If we continue to see how th e film depicts these parallel paths of Carlos and the ghost, we can see an obvious end to the repetition envision ed by the ghost that we cannot see in Carloss search for a father. To create a visual repres entation of the repetition psychosis, we must remember that such a psychosis is ended by a remembering of events Constant repetition displays an avoidance of the probl em; or at least a cue to viewers that there is still some change to be made in the pattern. And the moment this pattern is broken occurs when Jaime telling the story of Santis death to Carlos. Here, the recollecting of the past will lead to a change in the 35

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depiction of events between Ca rlos and the ghost. Whereas we had formerly seen a constant fleeing from the ghost, Carlos now interacts with the ghost, asking what it wants. During this scene, their interaction occurs under brighter lighting, th e ghosts transparent form makes its first contact with Carlos, and opposed to cryptically repeating everyone will die, the ghost is finally able to offer a direct edict: Bring me Jacinto. The change in the pattern is not only understood by the events but felt by the audience via the brea king of the repetitive visualizing of Carlos and the ghosts interactions. What we see here is that del Toros dual visualizing of the ch aracters, burying ones condition and exposing the others, making them tw o sides to a single coin, may be casting them as the same person, or may be visualizing the gho st as only part of Carloss condition. Such is the most common reading of del Toros similar fantasy film Pans Labyrinth in which a young girl must move to the home of her mothers new husband a fascist ca ptain during the Spanish revolution. In the process of with standing the atrocities she sees, the girl, Ofelia, meets a magical talking faun and begins a fantastical journey. However, she remains the only person who ever sees these magical elements, and the viewer is left to debate whether they were real or simply a coping mechanism. Oddly, a similar reading of the ghost in The Devils Backbone is unavailable. This despite the fact that the ghost while rumored earlier in he film is never seen by anyone until Carlos arrives, never speaks to anyone outside of Carlos, a nd its only notable interaction outside of Carlos, the grasping/dr owning of Jacinto once he falls in to the murky pool, can also be read as Jacinto simply being unable to move af ter being stabbed by the young children. In fact, the audience will see another ghost at the end of the film the ghost of Dr. Casares. However, unlike Santis ghost, Casaress ghost at one point in teracts with all the students; when they have been imprisoned by Jacinto at the end of the film, the audience h ears the lock to their door click. 36

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Seconds later, the audience sees the image of Casares, who had previously died in an upstairs room, pass by the screen. The film ends with him watching as the children strike out on the road outside of the school. The question this begs is, why are the ghos ts visualized differently? Why do we see Dr. Casares perform a task that all bu t proves his existence yet we never see Santi do anything that could have occurred ou tside of Carloss imagination? We may be able to answer this by reading Santis ghost as not only part of Carlos imagination, but also his double. Carolyn St eedman speaks to a similar idea in her text Strange Dislocations In her chapter on the ch ild and the uncanny, she references an anecdote in Wilhelm Meister during which Wilhelm develops an obsession w ith a number of puppe ts he discovered at a puppet show, specifically because of their littleness. Steedman states, This delight in littleness, in the manipulability of these figures and of the world the child events for them, all describe the little boys situ ation, and his understanding of his own childishness (150). Steedmans description parallels how Carlos, while afraid of the ghost, can also see almost everything about himself in the ghost. They are of the same age, same sex, same appearance; the ghosts frozen moment, bleeding out in the water, reflects Carloss entrapment in the school. The ghosts inability to speak about his situation reflects Carlos s inability to name his own trauma. And Carloss acting out only occurs in isolation where he is free to master (or attempt to master) the otherworldly realization of hi mself. In locating their interacti ons in these isolated, privileged spaces, del Toro is able to ex ternalize and depict the specific condition Steedman discusses. Once the subject is externalized, Carlos recognizes what the ghost wants; it is the same thing Carlos wants information that neither of them has the ability to access. The audiences understanding of Carloss situat ion has been prevented by the films focus on surface-level activities at the school. The audiences understandi ng of the ghosts situa tion has been prevented 37

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by the films repetitive visualization of the ghosts plight. With their need for information satiated, the audience becomes aware of how Carlos is also able to move forward with his desire to stop looking for a father-figure. The audience sees Carlos and the ghosts duality reinforced by how their traumas are rectified at the same point in the film. This is not to say the audience is meant to concretely understand that the ghost is imaginary. Instead, this duality plays a role in ho rror films that is integral to the genre. Carol Clover has mapped out the idea of the unca nny in the horror film, explaining how it is represented as an intellectual uncertainty that occurs when experiencing unworldly events that are grounded in enough reality that the human characters can stil l make sense of the events. Clover points out that it is not the destruction of an understanding of reality that makes the horror genre frightening, but only a twisting of reality th at still allows the prot agonist to understand the unreal. As stated above, Carloss interactions with the ghost seems entirely driven by their similarities whether the ghost is read as completely real or no thing but a figment of Carloss imagination. It is ultimately this similarity that ma kes the ghost understandable yet terrifying to Carlos. This disconnect between pe rceived and actualized ideas of reality returns us to the notion of inaccessible information. Again, the disconnect is made frightening by the information that both the audience and Carlos lack in order to make the existence of the ghost understandable. By realizing how the depictions of these characters rely on inaccessible information, we can understand exactly what functi on del Toro was trying to mimic in the framing of the films opening sequence. As we will recall, placing those introductory credits did two things: separated the images from the events of the narrative and stripped them of any potential context. By doing so, del Toro can try to create a visual mimicry of the psychoses of the characters for the audience to experience. As Freud discusses, one of th e most important forms of memory to understand 38

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when looking at the repeati ng, remembering, working-through process is experiences which occurred in very early childhood and were not understood at the time (149). While no presentation can genuinely replic ate this experience, del Toros presentation of the information can make the audience understand what it is to take information they cannot comprehend and have to it push it to the back of their minds to interpret the rest of the film. At the same time, he can create a cyclical pattern that mimics the repeating process. And finally, he can reveal information that mimics the idea of have reme mbered and worked through a process. So when the audience sees the informati on revealed, they may not understa nd what it is to genuinely work through the process they see onscr een, but they can at least have it mimicked in the medium before them to gain some understanding of it. During this final reveal 1:18 into the film Jaime explains to Carlos what he actually saw. Playing near the pool in the underground chamber, Santi hears a noise, rushes upstairs to check it out, and finds Jacinto checking the safe. Santi runs back down to the pool but is caught and interrogated by Jacinto. Jacinto restrains him, Santi bites Jacintos hand, and in a movement that is half Santi running away a nd half Jacinto pushing him, Santi slams forehead first into the brick wall. He falls over, head busted open. As the boy shakes and bleeds, Jacinto disappears. Jaime in the scene from the beginning of the film returns to the childs side to help him, but must hide again when Jacinto returns with rope. He watches Jacinto tie up the boys body and chuck him into the pool, and then leave the room. Jaime stars to cry at th e poolside and then runs outside into the school courtyard to be in the rain. While outsi de, he watches the bomb dropped earlier in the film fall from the sky and bury its elf in the ground. During the films present time, tells Carlos, I was always afraid of Jacinto. Very afraid. 39

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In this moment, del Toro reveals the opening images for what they are: an incomplete memory. He shows the audience that as the children both Carlos and the ghost have compulsively acted out on their inability to understand past trau mas, the audience themselves were working with too little information to unders tand what they had seen. By choosing to leave out particular information, the film has created a path for audiences to re construct the original events that is inherently probl ematic. The original presentation of chronology does not lead the viewer to believe the bomb was dropped after Sant is death, nor does it present any information about Jacinto to enter into the equation. In doing so, del Toro visualizes both the ability to remember an event incorrectly (the chronology of the bomb fall ing) or incompletely (the presence of Jacinto.) In forcing the viewer to re interpret their unders tanding of these events that occurred during the credits, del Toro manage s to align the viewer with the children in the film both in how they associate with the children and how they begin to mentally mimic the children. How this revealing of the events fo rces the viewer to align with the children may be obvious the children are now the possessors of the knowledge that the audience sought, and with it, become the most powerful point of identification. Whereas it is arguable that th e children (specifically Carlos) always acted as the central point of id entification, enough time is sp ent with the heads of the school Carmen, Jacinto, the old man that viewers may not initially align with the childrens perspective. However, the realization of the information allows the viewer to experience Carloss perspective. They too have had information withheld from them, and just like Carlos, are now being indoctrin ated into a secret circle of knowledge. From here, the films narrative becomes even more specifically oriented around the children (though, to be fair, almost everyone else is dead at this point.) 40

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41 At the same time, though, the viewer not only aligns with the child ren because of their perspective but is also forced to carry out th e same psychological process as the children. The goal of the remembering as Freud states is to activate the patients memory and cause them to acknowledge information that they knew all along but had not rea lized the importance of. As the memory activates a change in both Carlos and the ghost that causes them to alter their repetitive actions, the memory also activates a change in the viewer. As opposed to passively accepting the information that is now presented onscreen, th e viewer must now actively think back to the initial moments of the film and re-frame them using the newly acquired information. During this process, the intention of isola ting of the original images seem s clearer. Without the film coding them as a memory, the viewer would simply be trying to establish the na rrative coherence of the entire plot. But via the placement and approach we discussed earlier, del Toro manages to isolate these images so that viewer must specifically re construct them into an understandable story. And in doing so, they experience a process th at mimics Carloss and the ghosts.

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CHAPTER 5 FELMAN AND THE DE VILS BACKBONE Through this psychoanalytic take on The Devils Backbone we understand how del Toro has visualized a process that allows the adult audience to align with child characters. But while this helps the audience to identify with th e children, it does not free them from acknowledging that violence is now occurring to these same chil dren. In fact, this mode of identification risks implicating the viewer in the vi olence. Not only are they made to watch a child suffer, they are actively engaging the scenario and working thr ough it. Being asked to watch the child suffer alone implicates the viewer via the viewing of the scene; the viewer, however, can resist by refusing to watch or engage in the scene. Or simply clear their conscious by saying, I did not want to see that. If the viewer aligns with the child and works through the film the way it is set up to be worked through, acknowledging their need to piece together the opening images not just as to see them explained but actively engage how they work in the film, one must acknowledge their participation in the violence and commit him or herself to actively wo rk with it. They must, in this way, put hands on the dead child. The process of this audience implication is complex, as is the reason that the audience may avoid a feeling of implication. While Ive quoted del Toro on his feelings about the intersection of childhood and vi olence, the psychological process of watching the film is nowhere as direct. Returning to Carol Clovers notion of inte llectual uncertainty, the horror genre does less to construct a singular alternate re ality and more to play with reality. The goal becomes not to inform the audience that their pe rception of the event is the incorrect one but to confuse them into admitting that something is less concrete or stable about their perception than they realized. While del Toros films tend to be densely loaded with my thological inclinations to even the least discerning view er Clovers idea speaks to the possibility that there is no one 42

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correct reading. As Paul Julian Smith has stated, Pans Labyrinth s complex parallels between fantasy and reality repeatedly in terfere with any singular reading of the films fantasy imagery. By creating such confusion, del Toro does not ask for the audience to emerge with a clear reading but tries to dislocate the audiences perception of children and violence and force them to admit that conventional attitudes on the subject may not be correct. Shoshana Felman advances a similar idea a bout this kind of audience disruption in her text Writing and Madness In the chapter Henry James: Madness and the Risks of Practice (Turning the Screw of Interpretation), Felman pu ts forth a myriad of theories on how the adult reader interacts with and justif ies a reading of a text that f eatures the harm of young children. Through her point of view, t here is no such thing as innocent reader of text (144). No matter how the reader may interpret (or resist) the text, any unders tanding of the unfolding events reveals something of the viewer in how they choose to respond to the events. But most importantly, the viewer chose to be exposed to them to begin with. The scenario that the Devils Backbone places the viewer in is sim ilar to that Felman sees of the Turn of the Screw reader. As the viewer, often unwittingly, participates in The Devils Backbone by trying to assemble abstract pi eces of information, the reader of Turn the Screw is also replicating the madness of the lead char acter the governess as she struggles to understand the unexplainable phenomena occurring around her. As with The Devils Backbone the reader does not actually experience her ma dness but must work through a mimicry of it. In this way, both texts rely heav ily on establishing questions in the readers mind not just questions about the content of the film, which ar guably any text relies on, but also questions of the form it has taken. The reader/viewer must activel y ask what the director or writer is choosing to tell them or concea l from them. In constructing such an understanding, the viewers experience 43

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more than a cognitive observation of the texts pl uralistic meaning; they act it out, incidentally, to come to an understanding (161). In doing so, though, the film creates a boundary, a thickness as Felman refers to it, where the viewer acknowledges a buffer, a noticeable fourth wall, that distends them from the events onscreen. As Felman discusses how The Turn of the Screw is told through a multitude of points of view 1.) the initial listener who wrote the transcript the reader is reading, 2.) Douglas, the narrator whose story the unna med listener is retelling, and 3.) the governess who originally told the story to Douglas we begin to see how the continual Other-ing of the various narrators creates space between the reader and the story. Instead of watching the tragic evens unfold before them in the present, they are given thir d-hand information that ha s long-since occurred in the past. Such is the difference between hearing tragic stories that occurred long ago and the more immediate, visceral sensation people expe rience when seeing something occur in front of them, or, to a degree, hearing it replayed as la te breaking news. The paratextual elements of Devils Backbone also cause the viewer to question how they are receiving the film. By introducing the film with the abstract images and narrators voice (who will ultimately be revealed to be Dr. Casares), th e viewer goes on to understand this introduction in the context of the following narration/images. At the same tim e, the resulting narra tive operates under the question of how it relates back to the narrator and the original images. Instead of erasing viewers consciousness that they are watchi ng a film, the bulk of the narrative is now experienced in its relationship to the opening sequence. Such a tactic has a double effect, evident in Carolyn Steedmans work with the child as the projection of a little self. The distance the paratext offers directs the viewer to view the film as a film. Such can be helpful in that it a llows the viewer a distance from the violence they 44

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are not seeing done to children. At the same tim e, though, it also forces the viewer to see the children more as children and less as identifiable personalities. Such can be seen as problematic as the viewer finds it harder and harder to situ ate him or herself in the story. Through what lens do they identify? The adults in the film are ofte n too far removed from the events; the viewers desire to be inline with the lens of most knowledgeable character places them firmly in relationship to the children. What Steedman argues, though, is that often the adult impulse is to project their own personality on to images of the child. The very image of the childs littleness calls to mind the visceral sense of the smallness of the self that lives inside (171). This sense of smallness is even further stressed by the vision of the child on film; as opposed to the text in which the reader is not constant ly reminded of the sight of the child, the film viewer is more likely to see the child for its smallness, for its char acteristics, in an attempt to be able to read the child and find meaning in it. Such causes the viewer to more readily identify the child as a character and forces the viewer to project person ality onto the child. I would argue that, in this way, the film creates a dislocated sense of identification for adult audiences. The adult characters offer them too little information or too few entry points into the larger story, which steers the viewer to the owners of information, the childr en. Desiring the ability to have their knowledge but unable to identify with their age, the audience is left needing to project themselves onto the children to find a place in the film. Again, though, this leads less to an identification with the character and more with an identification with the scenario; the audience finds their place in the film not by relating to the characters personalities but by pr ojecting their personality onto a person to identify with the situation and how the child operates in it. What may be of the most interest here is how this projection onto the child will eventually find more filmic grounding as the narrative progresses. 45

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While the audience may initially have to project onto the miniaturized body that is Carlos, Carloss actions near the end of the film will take on the mature qualities that the viewer will relate to their own adulthood. For example, the film begins with depictions of Carlos in a small suit that highlights his size, as do his interacti ons with the adults around him. He reads comic books, attends school, and gets bullied. Watching these processes continua lly correlates his age with his size; during the films finale, though, Carl os will begin planning the other boys escape, and in the climatic scene, lead the violent, sh arp-stake driven charge against Jacinto. Here, the audiences projection comes in-lin e not with the childrens personali ties but their actions. In fact, the childrens move from acting in childish ways to acting in ways thought of as adult can be understood as the moment when viewers proj ections find their most stable grounding. In this way, the films envisioning of the child and how it seeks to have the audience project on to them accomplishes something else Fe lman discusses. Instead of simply identifying with the child, the viewer actively engages with the scenarios as they play out. The viewer allows their personality to be projected onto the chil dren, and as the childre n are transformed by the events so is the viewers projec tions of themselves into the film. They start off distanced from the characters but find their entry into the film via the characters actions. The film comprehends how the viewers will come to find this mode of identification, and if they act accordingly, they have unwittingly agreed to take part or become invested into the interaction of children and violence on screen. In this case, the child Carlos begins to take on a complex role in the film. He is a character, distanced by the pa ratext and projected upon by the audience. But as the lead character, as the one who knows of Santis existence, he is the one with knowledge that transforms the audience. As Felman points out, k nowledge is located in the Other. The audience 46

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must come to understand what Carlos understands. At the same time, Carloss character is faced with a similar scenario. While Carlos may be the Other in the film that the audience projects upon, Santi becomes the Other in the film that Carl os projects upon. As Carlos must try to read Santi for information, the audience sees their journey, their psychological experience, literally mimicked onscreen. The power Carlos is granted by this understanding resembles the power that the audience is granted by the f ilms request to be read as anyt hing more than a straightforward narrative. Returning to St eedman and her discussion of Wilhelm in the way that the character of Wilhelm identifies with the smallness of the dolls, Carlos sees Santi (similar, but notably smaller than, Carlos), and the audience comes to feel to ward Carlos. In interacting with the film, the viewer not only participates with it as a text, but they may also see themselves spelled out in the film in the process. Here, the film creates the opportunity for the audi ence to see their own realization played out in Carlos s revelation of the knowledge he seeks through Santi.. They are both distanced enough from the child character to stomach his situa tion, yet through this thickness, entangled with him to the point that they can both experien ce his enlightening and witness how the very same thing is happening to them. It is this process that gives us the clearest understanding of how del Toro has managed to use the film. Pushing the viewers away with the films form but entangling them in the multifaceted identification process, del Toro sneaks up on viewers in order to make them relinquish hold on beliefs that they would otherw ise hold to steadfastly. In doing so, he takes a controversial step toward working with child char acters in the horror genre that has rarely been bridged before, especially not in the mainstream. This is not to say his work with the child and identification stops here. Ultimately, such research should go on to be important to the political and transnational discourses alre ady existing on del Toro today. But hopefully it can act as a start 47

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48 at looking at one of the most important aspect s of del Toros films that has repeatedly gone untouched.

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LIST OF REFERENCES Chun, Kimberly. What Is a Ghost? An Interview with Gullermo del Toro. Cineaste 27.2 (Spring 2002): 28-31. Clover, Carol. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. Davis, Ann. The Beautiful and the Monstrous Masculine: The Male Body and Horror in El espinoza del Diablo. Studies in Hispanic Cinema 3.3 (2007): 135-147. Del Toro, Guillermo, dir. The Devils Backbone Perf. Eduardo Noriega and Marisa Paredes. Sony Picture Classics, 2001. Del Toro, Guillermo, dir. Pans Labyrinth. Perf. Ivanaa Baquero and Sergio Lopez. Sony Picture Classics: 2006. Felman, Shoshana. Writing and Madness Ithaca, New York: Cornell UP, 1985. Freud, Sigmund. Remembering, Rep eating and Working-Through. The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol. XII (1911-13): The Case of Schreber, Papers on Technique, and Other Works. Ed. James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press, 1958. 145-156. Ginette, Gerard. Introduc tion to the Paratext. New Literary History 22.2 (1991): 261272. Kermode, Mark. Girl, Interrupted. Sight and Sound 16.12 (December 2006): 20 24. Lazaro-Reboll, Antonio. The Transnational Reception of El espinoza del Diablo (Guillermo del Toro 2001). Hispanic Research Journal 8.1 (February 2007): 39-51. Lowenstein, Adam. Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film. New York: Columbia UP, 2005. Mitchell, Elvis. Guillermo del Toro: how the fable-spinning filmmaker behind the fantastical movie Pans Labyrinth said yes to adventure and no to boundaries. Interview 37.2 (March 2007): 98-99. Mulvey, Laura. Death 24x a Second Great Britain: Reaktion Books, 2006. Smith, Paul Julian. Pans Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno). Film Quarterly 60.4 (Summer 2007): 4-9. Stagnaro, Angelo. If Hollywood Is For Us, Who Can Be Against? National Catholic Reporter (5 May 2004): 15-16. 49

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50 Stanitzek, Georg. Texts and Paratexts in Media. Critical Inquiry 32.1 (2005): 27-42. Steedman, Carolyn. Strange Dislocations: Childhood and th e Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995. Tsao, Leonard Garcia. New Mexican Tales: Low-budget sex-romps, vampire movies and Westerns are among the genres transf ormed by a new generation of Mexican filmmakers. Sight and Sound 3.6 (June 1993): 30-32.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Joshua Coonrod was born in 1981 in Rolla, MO. He was raised there by his father, Joe, and mother, Connie, with his sister, Amy. In 2000, he attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he studied English and j ournalism. After graduating with dual degrees in 2004, he spent the following year working as a region consultant for Phi Sigma Pi Nati onal Honor Fraternity. In May of 2006, he began graduate school at the University of Florida. For the next two years, he focused on the study of horror films and depictions of chil dhood intersecting with violence. He graduated in May of 2008, intent on taking a year off of school and returning to Gainesville to pursue a PhD in English in fall of 2009. 51