- An excellent surrealist fantasy 10/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by The_Void
I can't say that I'm a big fan of director Luis Bu?uel. While I admire his visual flair - his movies often lack backbone, and this brings them down. The Exterminating Angel is the first Bu?uel movie that I've really enjoyed. I enjoyed it because I never got the impression that the point of this film was simply to be weird. Bu?uel has found a premise - basically, a satire on the behaviour of the upper class - and lampooned it brilliantly. The key to this movie is setting up the central plot, and the director does such a good job of it that after a while; we don't care that the film is based on an idea that makes no sense at all, and are just able to run with it. The film follows a bunch of guests at a dinner party. At the end of the party, none of them make any effort to go home and after a while it becomes apparent to the party that they physically cannot leave the room. We then watch as the upper class, people who are used to sipping champagne and smoking expensive cigars are reduced to surviving in the most basic ways. They have to hack through the wall to find a water pipe and even begin eating paper to quench their hunger?
The satire works because the acting is just so different to the way that the upper class usually conduct themselves - either on screen or otherwise. The structure of the social classes is clearly defined by Bu?uel's film also. This is the sort of thing that would really scare the rich, while other social classes have other things to worry about. Before the nightmare begins, various people are commenting on the conduct of one of their own who has had slightly too much to drink. This wouldn't worry anyone who isn't 'high society', but the fact that these people do care about it shows the difference in values between the classes. Bu?uel directs the film with almost a complete lack of emotion towards the central ensemble - and this stood out to me as it really allows the film to be funny. It's almost like the director is laughing at the situation that he's put his cast of characters into, which suggests that the Spanish director isn't the biggest fan of the upper classes. There's a million and one ways that this film could be interpreted, and that is what makes it great. If you don't like films that don't make sense; this probably won't do much for you. However, I think that this is one of those films that need to be experienced; and I definitely recommend it.
- An explanation? There is none. 10/23/2003 12:00:00 AM by dbdumonteil
That was what Luis Bunuel used to answer when asked about the meaning of one of his least accessible works.Much less linear than "Viridiana" -featuring the same actress Silvia Pinal-which precedes it,"El Angel exterminador" can be looked upon as an allegory.We find a lot of permanent features of the Bunuel canon in it though.
The fact that the guests cannot leave the luxury house will find an equivalent in "le charme discret de la bourgeoisie"(1972) when the five characters cannot have a good meal at the restaurant;the guests turning like lions in a cage echo to this strange picture of the five heroes of "charme discret" walking on an endless road.
This is the kind of movie that will have as many interpretations as there are users writing about it.And Bunuel would probably be the first to say that anyone is allowed to see his movie as he feels it in his soul -which is a word he would not certainly approve of though.
Another put-down of the bourgeoisie ,probably;As Charlie Chaplin would not have let an ice-cream fall on a poor woman's dress,Bunuel's wholesale massacre concerns the rich,the well-to-do.The house may be a metaphor for their world which they want to keep exactly as it is.But Bunuel soon scratches the varnish and after long hours,his powerful bourgeois are just men and rather hateful selfish cowards -the scene when they rush to get a glass of water.And as they cannot rely on themselves and on their pals,the only assistance can only come from above:so they promise God they will chant Te Deums, they will go to Lourdes and buy a washable rubber Virgin (sic).Surrealist pictures,which had been absent since "cela s'appelle l'aurore" (1955) come back for a while during one night,and they mainly deal with religion and heaven.The mystery of the night hours will come back in "le fant?me de la liberté" (1974)
The last pictures bring the missing link :the army ,shooting people (talking about a revolution?) ,as the bourgeois keep on singing(?) and praying(?)in the cathedral.
Recommended?Everything Bunuel did is crying to be watched.
- Is this a tale for 2006? 6/16/2006 12:00:00 AM by perilloj1512
I saw this film for the first time on TCM this week. It was really thought provoking. What fascinated me was that there were people in the room who had all sorts of skills to figure out the problem and become free, but did not. Another intriguing aspect was that nothing: marriage, love, death, children, jobs, or intelligence and logic was enough to solve the problem. The solution comes in a very interesting way and the least likely person. I hope you will watch and check it out. There was also a strong parallel between the catholic church and the people trapped in the room. I wondered if they were illustrating the socialist belief that 'religion is the opiate of the people.' The sheep were not eaten by the bear and all of these symbols were politically interesting. I have never written a review before and I hope I have not included any spoiler but this is a movie I would love to discuss over coffee: it is intelligent, mesmerizing, and a lesson for our time.
- Disturbing Dark Dangerous Satire 12/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by mockturtle
I am not going to go into much specifics except to say that this is one of the darkest and most disturbing films I have seen. I would certainly in that way rank it alongside David Lynch's "Eraserhead," Werner Herzog's "Even Dwarfs Started Small," Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," and more recently Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love." Each of these films is funny in a way, some hilariously, all subversively. I also must say, not to the detriment of the film necessarily, that this is one of the most irritating films I've seen. Bunuel truly gets under the skin of what gets under our skin: inane quirks, selfish boors, groupthinkers. The most disturbing imagery in the film suggests christian parallels with many of the guests praying or vowing to do good works if released, a butler that studied with jesuits and a final service in a church, as well as several lambs (often representations, as in Blake, of Jesus). Possible also are references to Passover's "exterminating" angel of death, as a brick thrown through a window is at first attributed "some passing Jew." I will not presume to interpret these, and I probably could not do so convincingly if I tried, and, much like with Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, I don't really want them interpreted for me. This is the wonder of Bunuel. "Cinema is anarchistic" is a probable misquote of him, but from the time of his last film no filmmakers except those above have been able to capture the feeling while watching a film that ANYTHING can happen, and very quickly, and how very frightening that is. The other reason I write is that the VHS of this film is ATROCIOUS. The best part is where one guest babbles on for about 10 seconds, none of which is shown in the subtitles AT ALL. Most of them are difficult to read as they are against a white background, the quality is true crap. "Diary of a Chambermaid" is a fine film but this is the one that truly needs to be seen as it was intended. >
- still one of the top comedies about utter frustration 8/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Quinoa1984
The Exterminating Angel, what a movie- I've seen it twice now and each time it went against (in the best possible way) my better logic. It's a work that's the product of a kind of madman place, and it stays impressive forty plus years later due to its humor. Like Dr. Strangelove, or maybe more so akin to a Kafka work submerged in Catholic plague, the film subverts expectations. At the start of the film, Luis Bunuel makes it clear as day that his only explanation is that its nonsense. If one were wanting to dig on a pure comedy level it would work because the dialog is so strange and out of place (if taken seriously) but consistently so, and the timing of the sort of downward spiral that plunges into the denouement (if there is one). If one were wanting to look at it for more of the technical reasons, its peerless- Bunuel has a steady, carefully controlled camera, quite tradition at times. But then at others he reveals his revealing, awesome flashes of symbolism, which may or may not fly over some viewers heads.
And then, if one were to go so far, on an existential level it goes into the realm of nothingness, a kind of study of how a nonsensical existence, trapped for reasons not made clear to the viewer (barely to the rich cast of bourgeois, a running gag almost), which also calls in the Kafka aspect. By the hand of a surrealist comes a deadpan satire, and it almost becomes a dark fable (the Catholic aspect to the film) by the end. It's a rather shocking film on the first try, which is why it probably had some controversy when it first opened. Giving it another chance, the film works better, on a more sensory level almost. This is the kind of film where you're either scratching your head and turning it off midway through, or laughing (while in the grips of cringing perhaps) and in a weird awe. One of Bunuel's very best Mexican films.