The Exterminating Angel

  (Redirected from El ángel exterminador)

The Exterminating Angel (Spanish: El ángel exterminador) is a 1962 Mexican supernatural surrealist film, written and directed by Luis Buñuel, starring Silvia Pinal, and produced by her then-husband Gustavo Alatriste. The movie follows a group of wealthy guests finding themselves unable to leave after a lavish dinner party, and the chaos that ensues afterward. Sharply satirical and allegorical, the film contains a view of the aristocracy suggesting they "harbor savage instincts and unspeakable secrets".[1]

The Exterminating Angel
The Exterminating Angel (film).jpg
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Produced byGustavo Alatriste
Screenplay byLuis Buñuel
Story byLuis Buñuel
Luis Alcoriza
StarringSilvia Pinal
Enrique Rambal
CinematographyGabriel Figueroa
Edited byCarlos Savage
Distributed byGustavo Alatriste
Release date
  • 16 May 1962 (1962-05-16) (Cannes)
Running time
93 minutes

It is considered one of the best 1,000 films by The New York Times,[2] and was adapted into an opera in 2016.


During a formal dinner party at the lavish mansion of Señor Edmundo Nóbile and his wife Lucía, the servants unaccountably leave their posts until only the major-domo is left. After dinner the guests adjourn to the music room, where one of the women, Blanca, plays a piano sonata. Later, when they might normally be expected to return home, the guests curiously remove their jackets, loosen their gowns, and settle down for the night on couches, chairs and the floor.

By morning it is apparent that, for some inexplicable reason, they are unable to leave. The guests consume what little drinks and food are left from the previous night's party. Days pass, and their plight intensifies; they become thirsty, hungry, quarrelsome, hostile, and hysterical. Only Dr. Carlos Conde, applying logic and reason, manages to keep his composure and guide the guests through the ordeal. One guest, the elderly Sergio Russell, dies, and his body is placed in a large cupboard. Later, Béatriz and Eduardo, a young engaged couple, lock themselves in a closet and commit suicide.

The guests eventually manage to break a wall open enough to access a water pipe. In the end, several sheep and a bear break loose from their bonds and find their way to the room; the guests take in the sheep and proceed to slaughter and roast them on fires made from floorboards and broken furniture. Dr. Conde tells Nóbile that one of his patients, Leonora, is dying of cancer and accepts a secret supply of morphine from his host to keep her pain under control, but the supply is later stolen by siblings Francis and Juana. Ana, who is Jewish and a practitioner of Kabbalah, tries to free the guests by performing a mystical ceremony, which fails.

Eventually, Raúl suggests that Nóbile is responsible for their predicament and that he must be sacrificed. Only Dr. Conde and the noble Colonel Alvaro oppose the angry mob claiming Nóbile's blood. As Nóbile offers to take his own life, a young foreign guest, Leticia (nicknamed "La Valkiria") notices that they are all seated in the same positions as when their plight began. Upon her encouragement, the group starts reconstructing their conversation and movements from the night of the party and discover that they are then free to leave the room. Outside the manor, the guests are greeted by the local police and the servants, who had left the house on the night of the party and who had similarly found themselves unable to enter it.

To give thanks for their salvation, the guests attend a Te Deum at the cathedral. When the service is over, the churchgoers along with the clergy are also trapped. It is not entirely clear whether those that were trapped in the house before are now trapped again. They seem to have disappeared. The situation in the church is followed by a riot on the streets and the military step in to brutally clamp down, firing on the rioters. The last scene shows a flock of sheep entering the church in single file, accompanied by the sound of gunshots.


Though Buñuel never states what the symbolism represents, leaving it to the viewer's understanding, one critic, Roger Ebert, wrote a lengthy interpretation of the film's symbolism, which includes the following paragraph: "The dinner guests represent the ruling class in Franco's Spain. Having set a banquet table for themselves by defeating the workers in the Spanish Civil War, they sit down for a feast, only to find it never ends. They're trapped in their own bourgeois cul-de-sac. Increasingly resentful at being shut off from the world outside, they grow mean and restless; their worst tendencies are revealed."[1]



This film received the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award of the international critics and the Screenwriters Guild at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.[3] At the 1963 Bodil Awards, the film won the Bodil Award for Best Non-European Film.[4]

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  1. ^ a b Roger Ebert, The Exterminating Angel Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine,, 11 May 1997.
  2. ^ The Film Critics of The New York Times (2004). "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 March 2005. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Exterminating Angel". Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  4. ^ "Amerikanske film". Archived from the original on 9 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  5. ^ Voss, Brandon (14 October 2014). "Stephen Sondheim Is Working on a New Musical". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  6. ^ Clements, Andrew (30 July 2016). "The Exterminating Angel review – Adès delivers unmissable operatic adaptation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.

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