The Exterminating Angel (1962)

How about some Spanish surrealism?


I’m not surprised.

Luis Buñuel famously got his start pairing up with Salvador Dali for Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) which is sixteen minutes of special effects. OK, it’s called “surrealism” but who are we kidding? Special effects are surrealism. If you’re a weirdo Spaniard and you call it “surrealism”, though, it’s now art and not just crass entertainment for the unwashed hordes.

Which is neither here nor there, I suppose.

The lambs take it on the lam!

The Exterminating Angel has the following premise: Some hoity-toity types have a dinner party and when it’s time to leave…they can’t.

There’s your movie.

It goes from humorous, as the various guests find reasons they can’t leave, to the point of encouraging others to leave but they’ve decided, spontaneously, to sleep on the floor of the living room they can’t leave, to almost science-fiction-y, as we discover nobody can get in to the house, and various strategies are tried, to horror, as the various guests suffer physical deprivation over time and some give in to despair.

A lot of faint-hearted Catholics swear to God that they will put their lives right if only they are freed and…well, I’m not sure what happens after that. I mean, I know what literally is portrayed, and I get the denouement, in the literal sense, and I get that it’s sorta ironic, I suppose.


But I don’t get what it’s about. If there’s a message here, it escapes me. Unless the message is that we are very little in control of things in the universe and our feelings about what happen have very little bearing thereupon.

Which, meh.

For all that, it’s an entertaining film, because the reactions of the people are amusing and have the ring of truth. What would these people do in this impossible situation? Probably this. That may be enough.

The Boy and I liked it, and I think it may be regarded as Buñuel’s  best work, although I think he has also done some more traditional narrative movies (Belle de Jour and The Obscure Object of Desire, e.g.) and I wouldn’t avoid them.

If you want something non-traditional, this isn’t the most difficult movie to watch.


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