“The Devil’s Backbone”: A seminar in socializing

A Spanish horror movie helped one freshman come out of his shell and meet new people.


I remember the first time I watched “The Devil’s Backbone.”

Sluggishly sprawled across my living room couch, I was dazzled by director Guillermo del Toro’s impeccable cinematography and impressionist use of color.

But that night, I was even more amazed by the story’s powerful plotline, one that’s stuck with me a lot these past few weeks at Temple.

“The Devil’s Backbone” takes place during the Spanish Civil War, where Carlos, played by Fernando Tielve, is sent to an all-boy orphanage after his father is killed fighting the nationalist army. 

It centers around his encounters with characters that defy his expectations and first impressions, something I’m learning is a pivotal part of my college experience.

I’m a freshman at Temple, and like Carlos, this is my first time living in an unfamiliar city surrounded by complete strangers. I am reminded of the character and his challenges meeting new people and forming judgements about them.

Carlos meets people who seem unfriendly or cold, so he spends most of his time alone. 

But as he begins to interact more throughout the film, he sees that they are more than what they seemed to be, and that, in reality, everyone around him is kind and supportive. 

I need to cast aside my judgments about people I meet and get to know them for who they are.

In college, it’s so easy to assume things about people based on how they present themselves. In a 15-second icebreaker, someone can seem stoic and apathetic on the surface, but they could be the most passionate person you’ll meet, and I’ll only know that if I try to forge a deeper bond with the people around me.

A relationship that starts off distant and estranged could blossom into an inseparable friendship.

The way I met my roommate started similarly. After first meeting, we seemed to have very little in common. Between his extroverted personality and love for sports, and my introverted nature and love for film, we didn’t quite click at first.

It’s difficult starting off your freshman year with a roommate that you might not be compatible with, especially when you don’t know anyone else on campus. It’s a feeling I’m sure Carlos could relate to.

But as I got to know my roommate more, I began to see how kind and supportive of a friend he is. He helped me meet a number of people living on my resident’s hall floor. Through getting to know someone that I’d initially written off as incompatible, I’ve found a large group of friends that are very dear to me.

This film’s theme of meeting new people and having them shatter your expectations has resonated with me these past few weeks at Temple.

It’s a narrative that feels fitting for a freshman’s fears about connecting with everyone around them.

And now that I’ve spent some time at Temple, my mind goes back to the film every time I meet someone new.

To you, “The Devil’s Backbone” might be just an old horror movie about ghosts and war. But to me, it’s a lesson I’ll never let go of and a story that I can’t help but see myself in.

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