• Director: Luis Bunuel
  • Screenplay: Luis Bunuel
  • Story: Luis Alcoriza
  • Actors: Silvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere & Enrique Rambal

Film Overview

  • Released in 1962
  • Producers allowed Bunuel complete freedom to make the film he wanted
  • “The Exterminating Angel” is the name of a 17th century painting by Valdes Leal
  • Based on a short story “The Castaways” by Jose Bergamin
  • The film was shot in Mexico (as many of his mid period films were)
  • Coolly received at Cannes; however, in retro-spec, it may along with L’Age d’or be his greatest work
  • When his son, Juan Luis, was asked by the film critics at Cannes about the purpose of the film’s many repetitions, he was instructed by his father to say: “without them the film would have been too short”
  • Additionally, when his son was asked about the significance of the bear, he was instructed to say: “my father likes bears”
  • Both L’Age d’or & The Exterminating Angel attack established social and moral values with a highlighting of man’s instincts & passions

Themes: Social & Moral Values & Rituals

  • Bourgeois Guests slowly descend into a surrealistic uncovering of primal motives
    • Reveals their most powerful instincts, dreams, and fantasies
  • Bunuel: I am interested in a life with ambiguities and contradictions
  • Rituals & Social Rites
    • The film subverts the sense of order & formality
    • Patterns of bourgeois ritual are challenged to explore the stirrings of a deeper nature and strong passions
    • Layers of social refinement are stripped away to reveal a powerful current of primitive emotion
    • Good Taste is sacrificed in the interests of more basic needs
    • In the end, the film seems to suggest that humans are no different than animals
  • Irrational impulses flood to the surface (a dominant pattern in the film)
  • The films many repetitions (over 20) underline the repetitive nature of human lives
    • These are formalized in the rites & rituals of the Bourgeois
    • Points to the absurdity of human life & action

Surreal Processes

  • Through psychic automatism, Bunuel has the freedom to explore his own imagination and reveal the subconscious of his characters
  • With this process, Bunuel denies, for the film, both a conscious aim and any one interpretation
  • Bunuel: I have not introduced a single symbol into the film, and those who hope for a thesis work from me, a work with a message, may keep on hoping! …Everyone has the right to interpret it as he wishes…


  • Bunuel had planned a film of Golding’s Lord of the Flies and his own The Castaways of Providence Street
  • Bunuel intended to create a film based on a group of people separated from their fellow men and exposed to their own virtues & weaknesses

Narrative Form

  • Begins & Ends with a religious image
  • Repetitions in Dialogue & Images

Questions to Consider

  • What returns the guests to their Ritualized & Patterned lifestyles?
  • Once the guests have escaped their imprisonment – What returns them to another form of bondage?
  • What role(s) do the servants/staff have in this ritual – both its dismantling and its return to form?
  • What is the significance of the repetitions?
  • How does the film represent the sub-conscious?