In this atavistic parable,
dinner guests are mysteriously trapped and only saved
from turning on each other by the equally mysterious
appearance of a flock of sheep.
sound of a tolling church bell prefaces the bizarre
events that are to unfold at a Mexican estate on
Providence Street. An aristocrat appropriately named
Nobile (Enrique Rambal) has invited several society
friends to his home after the opera. But even as the
dinner preparations are underway, the servants feel an
inexplicable urge to depart from the premises.
Despite the threat of dismissal, an anxious footman,
Lucas (Angel Merino), is the first to leave. As the
guests arrive and ascend the stairs to deposit their
overcoats for the evening, two more servants attempt to
escape, only to turn back when the guests emerge from
the room. Or do they? Curiously, the entrance scene of
the guests is repeated from a higher camera angle, and
this time, the servants successfully escape.
The dinner is a great success. The hours pass. The
people yawn and stretch out in exhaustion, yet no one
leaves. Despite the mutual realization of the guests
that they have clearly overstayed their welcome, no one
wants to bear the distinction of being the first person
to leave the dinner party. The veneer of civility erodes
as desperation and distrust set in, and inevitably, the
guests turn against their accommodating host, blaming
him for their absurd, self-induced captivity.
Luis Bunuel uses sardonic humour and surrealist imagery
as instruments of social indictment in THE EXTERMINATING
ANGEL. In a culture defined by etiquette instead of
humanity, Bunuel exposes the underlying artifice and
hypocrisy of civilized society. In essence, it is
the burden of the guests to perform the meaningless,
Sisyphean rituals dictated by their privileged class:
the repetitive introductions, the polite acceptance of
social invitations, and the perpetuation of
self-indulgent dinner parties. However, it is also
the passive comfort of their social status that creates
their claustrophobic isolation and complacent inertia.
Stripped of their pretence, their innate behaviour
remains fundamentally instinctual, base, and primal.
Ironically, it is a return to the ritual that liberates
them from their artificial prison. THE EXTERMINATING
ANGEL is a mesmerising, richly symbolic, allegorical
tale on the nature of human behaviour: of masters and
servants, of excess and want, and of fraternity and