Human beings differ from the wild nature by education, traditions and order.
Luis Buñuel’s (1900–1983) The Exterminating Angel crushes the system deemed seemingly natural by the society and does so with satire and ruthless candour.
The film begins with upper class people celebrating at a dinner. The women shine in their jewellery and men look pompous in their suits. We see glimpses of sexuality only in their glances and sighs. The dishes are cultural items more than nourishment. They have been refined during centuries of culinary pretence into complicated titbits. At the hour of celebration, they are historical gems on a silver platter, only to become faeces by the end of the night. The conversation bubbles until it is late evening and the people are tired – but the evening does not end, nor does the dinner. Has the dinner party been cursed or does a mystical force of nature surround the participants?
In his memoirs, Buñuel has said that there is nothing mystical about the film: “Basically, I simply see a group of people who couldn’t do what they wanted to do – leave a room.”
The biggest terminating angel in the film is Buñuel himself, who employs his boisterous surrealism to show how people have created a prison for themselves. Fortunately, there is also a way out. When this film ends, spectators are imprisoned by the theatre. We shall see if the summer of Lapland can set us free. (IS)