The Exterminating Angel (1962)

The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador)
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza
1962/Mexico
Producciones Gustavo Alatriste
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rita Ugalde: I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.

What does it all add up to?  I don’t know but the images are unforgettable.

After an opera performance, the wealthy Edmundo and Lucia Nobile invite 20 of their closest friends to a midnight supper.  What they don’t know is that their many servants are, one by one, feeling compelled to take the night off.  By the time dinner is served, the only remaining servant is the butler.

Dinner finished, it is now high time for everyone to go home.  But all find it impossible to leave the dining room.  They fall asleep on the floor and assorted sofas.  The next day they eat leftovers but after that food and water run out, moods worsen, and these cultivated people descend into savagery.

Buñuel was one of the original surrealists and well knew how to create a true nightmare world.  From the beginning, when scenes repeat themselves over and over, to the end nothing is explained.  The inability to leave the room is almost like a dream from which the sleeper cannot seem to awaken.  Of course, Buñuel indulges in his favorite pastime of taking both the upper class and, eventually, the Church down a peg.  I like this movie though it is not one I will return to on a regular basis.

American re-release trailer

4 thoughts on “The Exterminating Angel (1962)

  1. Funny that we are reviewing the same movie just two days apart.
    I think maybe you liked this better than I did. It just lacked a little more coherence for me to like it as if the whole symbolism thing got more important that the narrative.
    Still there are good and interesting elements here. As usual the wealthy and the church get a kick in their butt.

  2. I feel the same as you. I think it’s an impressive film for a lot of reasons, and it’s one where I think I finally understood Bunuel’s surrealism. That said, I haven’t watched it a second time.

    • I might be slightly tempted to pick it up when I re-watch Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise! Other than that, without narrative or relatable characters, it’s not something that calls out.

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