Well, I needed a film to break the recent string of ‘blah’ 1001 films that I’ve been through, and I’m so glad to say that not only did The Exterminating Angel end that streak but it managed to provide so much food for thought during the next few days. I knew that Luis Buñuel would be more than up to the task of breaking the streak, but I thought the same of John Ford and we all know how little I thought of Rio Grande.
I don’t even know where to begin with talking about The Exterminating Angel. It’s such a small story that primarily takes place in one room (which made it a prime candidate for a stage adaptation as the 2016 opera version demonstrates) and yet it begs so many questions as to how to interpret the actions.
To give a brief synopsis, the film is essentially about a group of Mexican members of the bourgeoisie who are trapped in the room of a mansion after the conclusion of a party. However, there’s no real reason for them to be trapped – they all have the same psychological affliction that prevents them from setting foot across the threshold and so are unable to get food or water (there’s also no bathroom… but Buñuel never delves into that difficulty).
It’s such a weird idea for a film, but it makes for something incredibly interesting to watch and then discuss. You see, it’s never explained why they end up trapped in this room or why the eventual solution works, but there are many ways that people have come to interpret it’s meaning. No matter the interpretation, it’s still incredibly interesting (in a blackly comedic way) to watch as the veneer of manners melt away and people are left as their true and more animalistic selves. In a way, you can think of it as The Lord of the Flies, but with rich people.
Luckily for me, there are still two Luis Buñuel films left on the list for me to see. So far his works have been a bit of a mixed bag for me, but they’ve always been interesting to watch. I guess I’ll need to wait and see what Viridiana and Tristana have to offer.