“The Exterminating Angel” – Chris Luedtke

Forgive me for starting this review like an infomercial. Do you hate rich people? Does the idea of absurdity to the umpteenth degree sit well in your stomach? Do you like laughing at humorous vengeance? Really, do you like absurdity? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these asinine questions, then Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel is a film that will make you laugh like a little girl, as your eyebrows raise and as you scratch your head at its surreal nature.

A post-opera dinner party sees a group of upper-class citizens left to their own devices, with no one to dote on them but one of their host’s butlers. As the group gathers in the living room, they lose track of time and decide to all crash at the host’s place for the night. When they awaken the next morning, they realize that they cannot leave the living room. As the group struggles to cope, they become more barbaric with every passing second. The more they gnash at each other’s throats, the more desperation sinks in. Rituals, burning furniture, ludicrous accusations, and suicide break out among the guests, until they can find a way out…if there is a way out.

Wow…I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The concept is bizarre, but it’s taken so seriously by the ones portraying the upper crust. Apparently, losing a few servants can really turn these people on their heads. Okay, while I know that isn’t necessarily true, we can’t help but laugh our heads off at this idea. Buñuel crafted a really stunning piece here. The beauty of the film is both getting caught up in its exploits and realizing what a great joke this mad realm is. Honestly, the synopsis sounds like a moronic idea for a film. But at the same time, that’s the point! Applying absurdity to a problem that could be easily solved is what Buñuel does best here.

After getting over the initial shock of what the story entails, we can see social satire buried even more deep within its confines. It’s as though Buñuel is saying its wealthier characters can only survive through the labor of others. When we stop to think about The Exterminating Angel, that’s exactly the case. Without a plethora of “us” below “them,” “them” are nothing more than a group of barbarians struggling to fix their hair, sleep peacefully, or fetch water. Hypothetically, this could happen to any class. The struggle to maintain (richies), the struggle to gain (middle class), and the struggle to start (lower class).

Unfortunately, The Exterminating Angel is not a perfect flick. The ending is the biggest part, inspiring most viewers to go, “Oh. Well, that’s kinda lame.” We can’t come to expect much beyond what we get. It makes sense, but still, I had hoped for more of the imagination that I had been so gleefully exposed previously. Nevertheless, Luis Buñuel’s experimental, surreal vision is something that everyone should witness. There will never be another film like this one, and I am proud to say that.

Rating: ★★★½

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s The Exterminating Angel review here.

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