The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, 1962)
The guests at an upper-class dinner party find themselves unable to leave.
Often described as the twin film to director Luis Buñuel’s own The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Exterminating Angel is a surrealist exercise of style and screenwriting. Again shot by long time collaborator to Buñuel, Gabriel Figueroa, The Exterminating Angel is the story of a group of high class bourgeois that are invited at a dinner party after the opera. Strangely as the guests arrive to the mansion almost all of the domestics leave the house just like rats in a lost ship. Then with twenty seven various repetitions in the story the guests are isolating themselves in the house and have to live together in this island. Much like a play on Lord of the Flies or an essay on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings, Buñuel demonstrates how decorum and ethic codes are pompous and empty when humans are piled like a horde of dogs together.
While playing on the edge of comedy, social commentary, and experimental cinema, Buñuel was a one of a kind storyteller. Even more with The Exterminating Angel than with The Discreet Charm he had to convince us of believing such a story and not make us blink with the repetitions. The first two repetitions are quite obvious with the two arrivals of the guests and the two toasts but as the story goes the subtlety of those is almost unperceptible. Just like the characters of his story, Buñuel wants to debilitate us from seeing with our conventional and conformist eye.
In this social commentary by The Exterminating Angel, there’s a clear contempt of the upper-class and its ways. Presenting them as animals or even as wolves. It is clear that Buñuel couldn’t have made such movies some those themes under the Hays code in USA. By chance, Mexican backers believed in their director and left us a great heritage of unique films of great quality.