Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Exterminating Angel

The Exterminating Angel, (original Spanish title El ángel exterminador) is a Mexican film released in 1962. It was directed by Luis Buñuel, one of the most significant surrealistic film makers.

It was the second movie of the Buñuel/Alatriste/Pinal film trilogy, written and directed by Luis Buñuel, starring Silvia Pinal, and produced by her then-husband Gustavo Alatriste. Buñuel picked it from an unfinished play his friend José Bergamín was writing at the time. 

If one looks at the basic storyline, it is a story of a few people who have gathered for a dinner party but in some mysterious way they are unable to leave the room after the party.

It's a story which is set in the house of Señor Edmundo Nobile and his wife, Lucia, who host a dinner party. At the start of the party itself the problems build up. All the servants in the house resign from their works and leave the house without any intention or specific reason. Only the head servant is left who looks after the serving of the guests. It is somewhat implied that this has got something to do with the way rats leave the sinking ship. Different people arrive at the party. One thing is common, they all belong to higher class. They have different attitudes, beliefs and characters. They appear to blend in an amicable way but deep down inside they hate each other.

The dinner goes down well. The guests have a good time. After the dinner one of them, Blanca, plays a piano sonata. Everyone enjoys it. But when it gets late and everyone is expected to leave and return to their homes, none of them appears to do so. The men simply remove their jackets, the women loosen their gowns and lie down on the couch or chair or floor and sleep. Edmundo and his wife Lucia find it strange but they too join them. They think that since it's late now, the guests might leave next morning. The morning comes and the head servant brings some breakfast in the room. When the head servant is asked to bring something else, he finds it unable to leave the room and so do many of the guests who want to go back to their houses. They aren't trapped in a physical way but there is some psychological barrier that prevents them from leaving the room. And they realize they are trapped.

The story goes ahead with how these people who are now forced to live in the same room with limited food and water which exhausts soon. Hunger, hysteria, anger and enmity creeps up between the guests and it becomes very hard for them to live together in the same room. An interesting question which can arise in the mind of the viewer is that why can't help arrive from the outside? This is explained. The psychological or mystical barrier which keeps the guests from leaving the room also somehow keeps people from entering the mansion from outside.

It is one of the most brilliantly made movies ever . Every person is free to analyze or interpret it in his own way. Also there is a scope for a different interpretation of the story, every time you see it.

The film sparked controversies upon it's release due to various reasons. Spain and Vatican didn't receive it well and as a result all the negatives of it were ordered to be destroyed. It was banned in Russia because the idea of people not being allowed to "leave a party" was considered offensive and anti-government. But the film was received well by the masses. At the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Palme d'Or. Mexican critics rank it as the 16th best film of the Mexican Cinema. The New York Times puts it as one of the best 1000 films ever made.