Home Magazine Luis Buñuel between art and movie: The Exterminating Angel almost turns 60 years

“Why are they not able to go away? I don’t understand”, an amazed Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van) asked Will, the American screen player coming from the future, who suggested ideas for a new movie to the master of surrealism. 

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In Midnight in Paris Woody Allen is ironic about the great surrealist movie author on one of his masterpieces: The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador) that he directed in Mexico in 1962. The movie is a refined and complex work of art. The story is pretty simple - this is one of its strongest focus. A group of wealthy guests belonging to the bourgeois class, has been invited to dinner after the Opera. At the end of the night, after a lovely and rich dinner among friends, they decided to leave. But the can’t. They find themselves unable to get out of the living room: it’s like they all felt a certain invisible line that cannot be trespassed. Days pass, and their needs and glitches intensify. They lose they’re self-behavior, their education, dignity. They started to die, to fight that limbo that set them against each other. A very symbolic message even for today. 


The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel (movie English poster).


A Freudian nightmare, melted with a sharp and ironic human and social critic, as in Buñuel typical style and approach towards its movies and ideas. Buñuel movie, inspired by a theatrical play titled “Los Naufragos” by José Bergamin, is still so contemporary: the idea of a “Big Brother” performed inside a bourgeois environment, with a very surreal, grotesque and strong aesthetic language, was absolutely new and shocking in the 60s, but very present today. Buñuel has always been an experimenter, that is the reason why he has often worked together with artists and intellectual colleagues. His school mates at the Academy were Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dalì. Dalì was his partner for his first movie, Le chien Andalou (1929), considered a manifesto for the Surrealist movement proclaimed by Andrè Breton. The famous sequence in which Buñuel's sliced the Woman's eyeball – that actually reminds of Man Ray photography imaginary – represents a high light in the art and movie scene. The surrealistic and artistic topics and details are tangible and recurrent. 


The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel (frame from the movie).


The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel (frame from the movie).


A group of high-society friends are invited to a mansion for dinner and find themselves inexplicably unable to leave, in Luis Buñuel’s daring masterpiece The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador). Made just one year after the director’s inter­na­tional sensation Viridiana, this film, full of eerie comic absurdity, continues Buñuel’s wicked takedown of the rituals and dependencies of the frivolous upper classes” (The Criterion Collection). Those blacks and whites, those returns and references towards the visual art world – with Salvador Dalì on top of course – and the photos, images and words by Surrealists and the grotesque approach towards reality, are still so contemporary and useful today, that we need to watch Buñuel again. 


The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel (final frame from the movie).


Un chien andalou, by Luis Buñuel (frame from the movie).


Cover image: The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel (frame).

Written by Rossella Farinotti

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