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Film / The Exterminating Angel

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"The best explanation of this film is that, from the standpoint of pure reason, there is no explanation."
—The film's preface

The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador) is a 1962 film directed by Luis Buñuel. It tells the story of a group of friends arriving at the house of a wealthy society couple for a lavish dinner...who then find themselves unable to leave. This causes confusion which leads to desperation, panic and brutality.

This film was one of the inspirations for Stephen Sondheim's final musical Here We Are.

"Los tropes exterminador":

  • Answer Cut: Lucia says to Julio the majordomo, after all the other servants have left, "I trust you and the two waiters will be able to serve." They exit the kitchen. Cue the two waiters, in civilian clothes, leaving like all the other servants.
  • Asshole Victim: Take your pick. The characters are not meant to be sympathetic.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In-Universe, things are introduced that make no sense. For example, the hostess is forced to cancel an after-dinner entertainment that apparently involves a bear and two sheep. What the animals were going to do is never explained.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The sheep and bear in the kitchen. Initially presented as a surreal gag, they later escape into the foyer and provide the guests with some food in the second act.
  • Dream Sequence: A feverish Leonora has a bizarre nightmare in which she is chased by a disembodied hand.
  • Driven to Suicide: Beatriz and Eduardo.
  • Here We Go Again!: Finally, after Leticia prompts everyone to replay what they did the night they were able to leave the salon, everyone is able to walk out. They attend a church service the next day—and after the service is over no one is able to leave the church. The End.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Buñuel took the title from a line in an unfinished play his friend José Bergamin had been writing. When Buñuel asked it he could use it, Bergamin said yes since he couldn't claim credit for it, since he took it from The Book of Revelation.
  • Locked in a Room: It's the central scenario of the whole movie - except the room's not actually locked. The party goers simply can't leave. When one guest humorously threatens to push another guest out, the latter barks "Try it, and I'll kill you."
    • Julio, the majordomo, was the only servant to stay in the house but did not go into the salon with the party guests. The next morning he brings them all coffee in the salon—and then once he's inside, he can't leave either.
    • The people outside can't seem to get in, either. Days later, the police are on the street outside and there is a large throng of onlookers. But no one can bring themselves to walk through the open gate.
  • Match Cut: From an ornate chandelier inside the mysterious mansion, to a bunch of balloons that a balloon vendor is selling outside the mansion, in the crowd of onlookers.
  • Mind Screw: From the beginning, things happen that make little sense. The guests arrive at the party, and then they arrive at the party again. Eduardo rises and makes a toast, and then he rises and makes the same toast again. The servants are all desperate to leave, for no obvious reason. When the waiter trips and spills a plate of appetizers, everyone thinks it's planned entertainment. The hostess, Lucia, keeps a bear and three sheep upstairs!
  • Only Sane Man: Dr. Carlos Conde, who is the only one who is able to stay calm amidst all the panic and fear surrounding him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The housekeeping staff leave early, feeling a sense of foreboding and dread they can't explain. They're proven justified as the film goes on.
  • Surreal Humor: It is Buñuel, after all.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Sergio Russell is a considerate gentleman who harshly rebukes his partygoers for laughing at a servant's misfortune. He's the first to die as a result of his age.