The Exterminating Angel

Directed by: Luis Buñuel
What does it take to strip away the trappings of civility and reveal the true nature of people?  The Exterminating Angel (El Ángel Exterminador) attempts to do this by showing just how thick – or maybe how thinly – humans lay on the social graces.  The premise is simple: a wealthy couple invites 10-15 of their friends over for a dinner party.  Before and during the party, most of the servants find excuses to leave the house, ultimately leaving only one butler.
This isn’t really the problem, however.  Once the guests retire to the parlor to chat, play the piano, sing and generally socialize, they can’t seem to make their way out of the room.  Several attempt, but then get sidetracked as soon as they approach the threshold.
What follows over the next week or so is pretty much a sociology experiment. How do the hosts respond to their guests far overstaying their welcome past the respectable social hour?  Will the guests understand forces out of their control are at work, or will they blame their hosts? How will the engaged couple trapped in the room deal with the delay of their wedding?  How will the guests react to the illness of a guest with a heart condition?  How will these pampered socialites deal with hunger, thirst, temptations and the inability to have all their immediate needs met by servants – especially after the one remaining butler gets stuck in the enchanted room as well?
These and other key questions are answered. It’s almost like the Real World of the privileged class – the audience waits for the group to stop being polite and start being real so we can watch the train wreck.  However, the movie also generally questions how ‘civilized’ are we in the first place, especially as it only takes a relatively short period of irritation to blow up at each other and a proper society matron carries around chicken feet in her handbag just because she had the feeling occult talismans might be needed at a dinner party.
If you:
·         Like existential literature/film.
·         Like to ponder symbolism and philosophical elements in film.
·         Like reality shows that stuff a bunch of vaguely associated people together in close quarters just to see them have meltdowns
Put it in the queue!
However, if you:
·         Prefer a more action-packed film
·         Are not interested in watching a sociology experiment because Lord of the Flies was convincing enough for you
·         Are creeped out by people letting unusual pets (i.e. sheep) roam about the house
Don’t put it in the queue.
Written by Jennifer Venson