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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 fantôme 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.
I can't say that I'm a big fan of director Luis Buñuel. While I admire
his visual flair - his movies often lack backbone, and this brings them
down. The Exterminating Angel is the first Buñuel 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. Buñuel 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 Buñuel'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. Buñuel 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After an evening at the opera in Mexico City, a group of high society
friends meet at the house of their hosts, Nobilé and his wife, to dine and
spend the evening indulging in "sophisticated" conversation and whatever
else such folks do at their parties. They stay later and later and
eventually it's the next day, but no one has left. By that evening, they're
all still in the salon, no one has left and no one will leave: they're
trapped! All the have to do is walk out the door, but no one wants to be the
first to leave.
As time goes on, one gravely ill guest dies, they run out of food, and eventually their genteel façade deteriorates and they become, as the Spanish title suggests, "shipwrecked", in their house on Providence St., losing all track of time. The subtitles typically leave out a lot of the Spanish dialog. Listen for the Voice of Reason, el Doctor, who's always saying "calmanse todos" ("everyone be calm") whenever there's a confrontation. Also listen for the electric shaver at odd times, much to the irritation of one of the guests.
I came across this crazy film in the summer of '86 after having purchased my first VCR. I soon found myself watching it twice daily and read all the books I could find on both the film and its director, Luis Buñuel. I found a lot of good information along with some glaring errors regarding the film, to which I attribute the possibility that the authors probably did not have access to a videotape copy of the movie and were thus unable to view it many times over.
That being said, I've been able to gather that the movie is primarily Buñuel's impression of "high society" parties that seem to go on forever (as he stated himself in several interviews). Much is made of the various repetitions in the film, and he stated that in some cases he'd actually witnessed the same people being introduced to each other several times throughout an evening, as is seen in the film itself.
Beyond that, I get the clear impression that a lot of this film is essential a joke in the sense that Buñuel throws in a lot of stuff just to confound the viewer and make himself laugh. When the women talk of seeing eagles when relieving themselves in large vases in a closet, this is in reality taken from a time in Buñuel's youth when he'd visit relatives in the mountains. Their outhouses extended over cliffs and it was indeed possible to see eagles, etc., flying underneath (poor birds!).
Then there are Buñuel's favorite targets like the upper class and classical music, including condutors and cellos. The dialog is rich in non-sequitors and ironic responses that are all the more hilarious when translated from Spanish. One great example is when Nobilé responds to his wife after she's noticed a guest has removed his coat (gasp!), "let us remove our coats as well, to attenuate the incorrectness".
I've watched a fair amount of Buñuel's films, and this is by far my favorite. There are others that are better in their technical acheivement, e.g. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeousie", but this, and its contemporary, "Simon of the Desert", are as good as he gets in my book.
I've been searching for a copy of the screenplay in Spanish.
"We don't want answers, we want to get out of here!"
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A group of bourgeois friends are trapped in a house after a dinner
party. Some type of mysterious force does not allow them to leave a
room. There, a few days later, their social behavior masks fall down,
revealing persons very selfish, rottenness, confessions about their
friendship and a 'bad smell': most of them stinks. They survive,
through the sacrifice of some lambs, and in the end, everything and
everybody returns to the same initial position and they leave the
The first time I watched this intriguing movie was in 1973, when I was a teenager. Since then, I have watched at least four more times. Now I had the chance to buy a DVD recently released in Brazil (again from the great Brazilian distributor Versátil). This time, I had the chance to see a spectacular restored photography in black & white, with wonderful shadows. There are many points in this metaphoric tale that I still do not understand, but this movie exerts some type of spell on me that makes me love it. For example, I have not understood the title yet: why the exterminator angel? However, the essence of the story, with the hypocrite bourgeois class trapped in their world, changing positions without leaving their social class, sacrificing lambs to survive and in the end coming back to the same initial position in the world, is very clear to me. An unforgettable movie, but not recommended for all the audiences. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "O Anjo Exterminador" ("The Terminator Angel")
I just saw this for the first time yesterday. Although the movie was
made in 1962, it was a very grainy print, and I am assuming that this
was deliberate - it looked as though we were looking at something from
the 1920s. I liked this; it was all part of it. This was an amazing
movie - and amazingly prescient - a metaphor for the human condition
(not just the upper classes), our life on this planet, and how fragile
it all is (the slightest pressure on resources, the slightest
dislocation, and the whole edifice crumbles). The room they did not
want to leave is this planet earth and our life on it. The guests are a
metaphor for all of us, and we are very, very attached to life. When we
are having a wonderful time, for sure we don't want to leave life and
the planet - and even when we have made the most terrible mess of it
(because we don't want to leave) and the whole thing has degenerated
into fighting, bickering,destruction, hunger, thirst - we STILL don't
want to leave. In the movie, as in the cycle of life, it is not until
there is a reprieve when everything suddenly clicks back into how it
was (reincarnation?)that they are able to leave. They go back to the
Church - but that is no answer either, because the whole same thing
happens over again. At the end, the sheep all go to the church - "lambs
to the slaughter" (and English phrase - I am English).
It is an interesting parable for today's world: the rich (First World countries?) take for granted food and water -- until they experience the loss of it firsthand themselves (the Third World?), and then all the social castes and 'mores' which they (we) have built up, crumble - they fight each other, they hallucinate, they hunger, they thirst. Later, even once they are free of the room, we see fighting in the streets of the city, with troops firing on the civilian population. The movie was made in 1962: does any of this sound familiar in today's world of 2006 ?
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. >
I discovered surrealist cinema as an adult. Of course, there are such scenes and images in many films, but I saw the first complete surrealist movie as a grown up. It was "Belle de jour", a film by Luis Buñuel, whose work I knew since watching his "Robinson Crusoe" in my childhood. Buñuel had gone a long way since 1928's "Un chien andalou", made in France. He had gone into exile during the Spanish Civil War, first to the United States and finally to México, where he spent the rest of his life. But he made films in Europe now and then, and had regained his status as one of the masters of world cinema. Although he did not think much of his Mexican motion pictures, his masterpiece "El ángel exterminador" is my favorite of all his films. He once complained that Mexican actors were not able to convey the spirit of the "haute bourgeoisie", but what he did not take into consideration was that, if he made a film in México about the rich, he was dealing with something else, called "creole oligarchies." And in this sense, this farce of the 1960s' Latin American "filthy rich" is most accurate. Moreover, with his usual affectionate treatment of the bourgeois (something he rarely did with clergy, female characters, or street urchins), he created a most believable funny portrait of the Latino rich people, who do not know what is their origin, who they should "pay tribute to", or where they are headed, unlike their European ancestors. Here, a group of those characters, born in México, gather for dinner after an opera performance, but when the time comes to leave the house of the Nobiles they cannot leave the room where they reunited for gossiping after meal. There is no apparent reason they cannot leave, but there they stay for days, going back to a primitive state in which their dearest "discreet charm" (euphemism, the rule of the game, as in Renoir's 1939 film) vanishes. And when they are set free, and go to a church to thank the Lord... well, Buñuel sure knew how to make fun of them, with situations verging on the fantastic and funny lines of incoherent, silly or ridiculous dialogue. A wonderful movie, which is always fun to watch again, especially in a double bill with another gem, the last one Buñuel made in México: "Simón del desierto."
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.
This film, constitutes the absolute surrealist masterpiece of all seasons. With unique virtuosity, Bunuel shows how easily a person makes his bonds and limits his freedom. Who are however these persons? They are those that made fortune without have worked never in their life or those, that with illegal ways acquired power and money. Naturally the one that puts unreal bonds in all the persons, with a view to check and dominate them, is the Church. The director accuse the high society and the Church and puts them to live as simple persons and they make things that they would never make. In this masterpiece Bunuel points out also the corruptness that exists in the society, which emanates from the Church and has expanded everywhere. It is not simply a film, it is a sociological approach of corrupted modern person.
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