JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 291
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Gothic Representation and
Traumatic History in The Devil's Backbone
In the opening frames of The Devil's Backbone, Guillermo del Toro's
2001 film set during the Spanish Civil War, a bomb drops from the hatch
of an airplane; immediately, the camera cuts to a boy, unconscious or
dead, lying on the flagstones of a cellar, his head bleeding. A voiceover
"reads" the disconnected images, saying enigmatically, "What is a ghost?
A tragedy condemned to repeat itselftime and again?" These two images,
of a bomb and a bleeding youth, indelibly conj ure up traumatic aspects of
Spanish and Eurowestern twentieth-century history (and of our own
twenty-first). While not specifically targeted in warfare, it is the younger
generation who suffers most, as "accidental" casualties and as survivors
living with war's long-term effects. And bombs, first used against a
civilian population on a large scale in the Spanish Civil War, a testing
ground for fascist Italy's and Nazi Germany's use of them in WWII, have
become the preferred weapon of modern warfare whenever available,
from the so-called smart bombs to cluster bombs to the bomb lurking
behind the others, whose insanity perversely renders all other bombs
"preferable": the atom bomb. As containers of Western violence, bombs
are the tragedy that keeps repeating itself, the container of desires and
fears that, no matter how much "payload" we drop, we can't seem to let
go of. As an image, too, the falling bomb is one we've been haunted by,
seen countless times in films, as early as Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove,
or How I Learned to Love the Bomb. This generic image appropriately
portrays a representational relationship to history, one in which that
image, despite (or, should I say, precisely because of) its seemingly
universal significance for the West, still carries a horrifying charge.
jac 24.2 (2004)
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/37/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .