Exterminating Angel, The (1962)

Exterminating Angel, The (1962)

“The best explanation of this film is that, from the standpoint of pure reason, there is no explanation.”

A group of bourgeois dinner guests find themselves inexplicably unable to leave once the party is over.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Bourgeois Society
  • Get Together
  • Living Nightmare
  • Luis Bunuel Films
  • Surrealism

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this “perplexing, absurdist black comedy” — an extended allegory on the fragile veneer of class — as “one of Bunuel’s most bizarre films” (a notable distinction, given Bunuel’s many other surrealistic endeavors). As Peary notes, this film represents one of Bunuel’s “many indictments of the bourgeoise” given “it is they who have contaminated society” and now they are transformed “into the smelly, violent, uncouth people they’ve always despised.” The guests — caught in a living nightmare from which they can’t awake, without servants to help mediate their pressing needs — eventually begin to lose every shred of their carefully seasoned civility, making “brutally honest remarks about each other” that “may seem like cheap shots, but are a big improvement over the false respect that previously distinguished their relationships.” Nothing is left sacred here: suicide, infidelity, and bitterly sarcastic barbs all come to bear as the days go by and nothing seems to change for the trapped guests.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A powerful allegory of bourgeois conformity and fragility

  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
Yes. This film is a masterpiece of Bunuelian absurdism, and should be seen by every film fanatic.


  • Foreign Gem
  • Important Director


2 thoughts on “Exterminating Angel, The (1962)

  1. Yes, anything by Bunuel is a must for film fanatics.

    His work is too unique and film lovers should know it. The problem I have with Bunuel, though, is the more I watch his films, the less I enjoy them. I have trouble ‘going back to the well’ for multiple viewings. I just saw ‘Exterminating Angel’ recently on TCM and found I couldn’t get through it.

    Of course, not really knowing Spanish could be part of the problem — I could be losing something in translation. The only Bunuel film I can think of right now that always intrigues me is ‘Belle de jour’. Hmm…what can it mean?

  2. I haven’t gotten around to rewatching any of Bunuel’s films yet, either… As with you, “Belle Du Jour” (which I watched in an introductory film class in college years ago) is the only one I’m intrigued enough by to want to see again. With that said, the bizarre storylines and surreal imagery in each of his films continue to haunt me long after I’ve seen them… Very powerful stuff.

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