“The help becomes more impertinent each day.”
The guests at an upper-class dinner party… inexplicably, find themselves unable to leave.
Luis Buñuel‘s The Exterminating Angel is an absurdist satire on the slow and deteriorating breakdown of human civilization.
Often associated with the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Bunuel collaborated with Salvador Dali on the sixteen minute short, Un Chien Andalou. This film and L’Age d’Or have gone down in history as the foundation stones of surrealist cinema. Even when he formally broke with the Surrealist movement in favour of much more political content in his work, Bunuel was profoundly influenced by it’s exploration of a symbolic language of the unconscious mind and it’s insistence on freedom from literal interpretations of the nature of reality. Although he would venture in other genres such as documentary films, the themes of his later narrative films are often seen through this lens of the absurd and allegorical. Due to his Communist loyalties Bunuel was unable to return to Spain after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), and much of Bunuel’s major works, including The Exterminating Angel, were made in Mexico. As such, being both surreal and political,The Exterminating Angel is a potent union of both major influences in Bunuel’s life. It manages both a withering allegory of the mechanisms of social power and a philosophical challenge to our perceptions of “normal reality”. Buñuel delights in his scrutiny of the upper class, through the example of the diners at the home of an aristocrat, and finds them consumed by narcissism, hypocrisy, greed and foolishness. Unable to leave after the dinner, they lack the necessary moral force to break free and are entrapped in a bizarre hell of their own making. The veneer of their cultured personas begins to crumble and they are soon exposed as no better than the most depraved and base of animals. Bunuel would no doubt delight in the myriad interpretations possible from The Exterminating Angel. Speculation is definitely encouraged, and although we may still finally arrive with as many questions as answers, we will always be mesmerized by Buñuel’s wild imagination and engrossing philosophical perspectives.
https://mubi.com/films/the-exterminating-angel (english subtitles)