Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Exterminating Angel


In this highly verbose film I definitely felt that much was lost to subtitles. Bunuel has this to say about it's meaning: “The best explanation of this film is that, from the standpoint of pure reason, there is no explanation.”What one reads into a film doesn't have to be what the director put there and that leaves one with a verdant field to indulge oneself. And for a film like this the word spoiler has little meaning since the second view seems mandatory if you really want a grip on it.

A party is scheduled in an aristocratic residence, but at the last moments, all the servants but one disappear. As the party progresses the guests for unexplainable reasons find themselves unable to leave. Days extend to weeks and the party turns to something else as the guests and hosts feel hopelessly entrapped in an unbearable situation.  Supplies of water and food are gradually depleted and there are two suicides and a death due to a heart attack. A flock of sheep join the party and a bear clambers from the chandelier suspension. There is a move to kill the host, who is blamed for the situation. At the same time people outside the mansion are similarly restrained from entering it by an invisible force.

While the metaphors and surrealism is can be subjected to discussion, the broad theme, disintegration of human personality, seems fairly obvious. The human being is a Pandora's box and the strange and ugly creatures who reside within appear all too easily. The veneer of civilization is all too thin, surprisingly, for all our advancements since we left the jungle. The animals who appear in the film are inseparable aspects of the human psyche. The film also depicts the social barriers, in this case the walls separating the serving classes from the served. The director must also have had in mind the situation in Spain during Franco's regime.

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