Movie Review: The Exterminating Angel (1962)

Title: The Exterminating Angel
Release Date: 16 May 1962
Director: Luis Buñuel
Production Company: Gustavo Alatriste

A group of wealthy people attend a dinner party at mansion of Señor Edmundo Nóbile (Enrique Rambal) and his wife Lucía (Lucy Gallardo).  Strange things begin to happen as most of the Nóbile’s servant staff leave the mansion as if they are escaping, scenes and dialogue are repeated, and animals (wild and domestic) appear where they don’t belong.  When it comes time for the party to end, the guests find themselves unable to leave.  There’s absolutely nothing blocking their exit, but whenever anyone tries to leave the room they find themselves reconsidering and just staying put. As days and weeks pass, the guests are reduced to their basest instincts and turn against one another, although Dr. Carlos Conde (Augusto Benedico) attempts to keep order.

I kind of liken the experience of the characters to standing at the end of a high diving board saying “I’m going to jump” but then failing to move.  Of course the story works metaphorically on many levels.  Our U.S. Congress today knows what they need to do to move the country forward and yet remains frozen. Buñuel, of course, was satirizing the inertia of the elite social classes and the church of his time.  I like to think that these rich people were just totally helpless of what to do once the working class people abandoned them.

In short, The Exterminating Angel takes the premise of movies like The House on Haunted Hill of a group of people trapped inside a mansion but instead of camp horror gives it a Twilight Zone spin.  Of course, surrealism should be expected from the creator of Un Chien Andalou.  Ultimately, this film about a bunch of rich people trapped in a room is far more entertaining that I’d ever expect!

Rating: ****