After a lavish dinner party, the guests find themselves mysteriously unable to leave the room... and over the next few days all the elaborate pretenses and facades that they've built up by virtue of their position in society collapse completely as they become reduced to living like animals...Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
After the butler trips in the dining room, the lady of the house follows him into the kitchen. While they speak the boom mic can clearly be seen at the bottom of the screen, extending out from under a table. See more »
Beautifully realised, with moments of surrealism that both amuse and bemuse
'L'enfer c'est les autres' (Hell is other people), wrote the French existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, in his play, 'No Exit' (sometimes referred to - and has been performed - as 'In Camera'), that surmised the narrative of three deceased individuals locked in a room, one that they eventually realise they will be spending eternity together in. Luis Bunuel used this simple meta-narrative concept of people trapped, to create one of his finest satires, and his first explicitly surrealist film since L'Age D'Or (1930). After Bunuel's previous film, Viridiana (1961), was condemned by the Vatican and banned in his native country of Spain (and where it was made), he moved back to Mexico where he had been making films throughout the 1940's and 50's, and produced a scabrous attack on General Francisco Franco's Spanish fascist dictatorship, and the institutions, and bourgeois facets of the country that were founded on the destruction of the poor and the proletariat, during the civil war that ended in 1939.
Whilst the film works as political allegory, on a base narrative level, it functions as an irrational comedy; or farce. The guests arrive for a lavish dinner, but as they arrive, the maids leave, and progressively all the hired help leave them. Once dinner is complete, the guests congregate in the living room, but they all begin to realise that they are unable to leave the room at all. When this is discovered we observe that they attempt to go, but are either distracted or simply stop or break down at the boundary of the room. This continues through days, possibly months - the characters concept of time completely obliterated. The group falls into decay, primitive urges overwhelm them, and as this representation of Western Civilisation breaks down, the group become brutally savage, turning on the host of the dinner, demanding sacrifice. The group slaughter the lambs that were originally to be used in a dinner prank.
At first the guests seem to simply ignore what is happening to them, and continue with inane chat. Exterior to the "party", the grounds are surrounded, but not even the police are able to enter, given the same mysterious barrier that prevents entry. It's almost a perfect parable, illustrating the ignorance of the Spanish bourgeoisie, as they strip the rights and dignity of the proletariat (here the maids leave on their arrival), whilst divorcing their minds from the violence and corruption of a dictatorship. But with this, it also shows how even the "civilised" sections of society, once they are stripped of their social status, their inherited manners of "education", and their ability to use wealth, the fall into absolute decay, probably falling apart greater than the lower classes, with their lessened moral outlook, and an almost infantile inability to deal with regular obstacles.
Winner of the 1962 Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival, this was to begin what become (rather belatedly for the 62 year old) his most productive, celebrated and interesting period of his career, based in Paris, beginning with Belle de Jour (1967) and ending with That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). This is the period that he developed and expanded his own style, and his unique vision on film. The Exterminating Angel has also given inspiration for others. It is a clear influence on Jean-Luc Godard's wonderfully bleak and satiric depiction of the bourgeoisie and the end of Western Civilisation, Week End (1967). The idea was also utilised in one sketch from Monty Python's Meaning of Life (1983), that saw the guests leaving as ghosts. This is by far, one of his greatest achievements, beautifully realised, with comic touches, and moments of surrealism that both bemuse and amuse.
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