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The Exterminating Angel

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The Exterminating Angel
Original film poster
SpanishEl ángel exterminador
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Screenplay byLuis Buñuel
Story byLuis Alcoriza
Luis Buñuel
Based onLos náufragos de la Calle de la Providencia
by José Bergamín
Produced byGustavo Alatriste
CinematographyGabriel Figueroa
Edited byCarlos Savage Jr.
Producciones Gustavo Alatriste
Estudios Churubusco
Distributed byAltura
Release dates
  • 16 May 1962 (1962-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 1 October 1964 (1964-10-01) (Mexico)
Running time
93 minutes

The Exterminating Angel (Spanish: El ángel exterminador) is a 1962 Mexican film by Luis Buñuel. It is famous for its surrealistic atmosphere, including that a party's guests can't walk out of a room, inexplicably. The film stars Silvia Pinal, and it was produced by Pinal's then-husband Gustavo Alatriste. It tells the story of a group of wealthy guests who find themselves unable to leave after a lavish dinner party, and the chaos that ensues. Sharply satirical and allegorical, the film contains a depiction of the aristocracy that suggests they "harbor savage instincts and unspeakable secrets".[1]

The movie is a mix of dark comedy, absurdist humor, thriller, drama and surreal mystery to display a biting social satire of the bourgeoisie.

In 2004, The New York Times included the film in a list of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made".[2] The film was adapted into an opera of the same name in 2016.[3]


After a night at the opera, Edmundo and Lucía Nóbile are having 18 wealthy acquaintances over for a dinner party at their lavish mansion. The servants inexplicably begin to leave as the guests are about to arrive and, by the time the meal is over, only Julio, the majordomo, is left. Lucía cancels a planned surprise involving a bear and three sheep upon discovering that guest Sergio Russell does not like jokes, but there are a few strange occurrences, such as the guests somehow entering the mansion and going upstairs twice, Edmundo repeating his toast to the opera singer Silvia, and Cristián Ugalde and Leandro Gomez greeting each other three times (as strangers, cordially, and antagonistically).

The guests mingle before adjourning to the salon to listen to Blanca play a piano sonata by Paradisi. When she finishes, she says she is tired, and several other guests indicate they are about to go home, but no one does. Instead, without discussing it, the guests and hosts settle in and spend the night on the couches, chairs, and floor of the salon, preventing Lucía from sneaking off for a tryst with Colonel Alvaro Aranda, while Julio sleeps at the table in the dining room.

In the morning, it is discovered that Sergio is unconscious. The hosts and some of the guests wonder why no one attempted to leave the night before. A few guests try to exit the salon, but they all turn back or become distressed and stop before crossing the threshold. When Julio brings some leftovers for breakfast, he is trapped as well.

Patricia Morán and Ofelia Montesco in a publicity still for the film.

By that evening, everyone is on edge. They are using a closet as a toilet and have run out of clean water. Raúl blames Eduardo for their plight, but Leticia defends the host. Sergio dies during the night, and Dr. Carlos Conde and Alvaro put the corpse in a closet to prevent the sight of it from further worrying their peers.

A crowd of onlookers, police, and soldiers gathers outside the gates of the mansion over the following days and finds no one is able to enter, though there is no physical barrier. The trapped individuals get water by tapping into a pipe in the wall, but their good manners continue to deteriorate. A growing number of them become ill, and Dr. Conde has no medicine, until Edmundo shows him a stash of opiates, which some of the guests sneak for themselves.

At a particularly heated moment, the trapped group sees the three sheep and bear roaming the mansion. The sheep wander into the salon, where they are caught and roasted on a fire in the middle of the room. While the food calms things down somewhat, it does little to raise spirits, and Eduardo and Beatriz, a young engaged couple, kill themselves in a closet.

One night, all of the Nóbiles' servants are drawn back to the mansion. Inside, Raúl has convinced most of the other guests that their predicament will end if Edmundo dies. Dr. Conde attempts to reason with them, and a fight breaks out, the doctor assisted by Alvaro and Julio. Edmundo and Leticia come out of the curtained-off area they have begun to inhabit (Lucía is now openly with Alvaro), and Edmundo offers to take his own life. He gets a small pistol he had hidden, but Leticia tells him to wait.

She says all of the people and furniture are in the same spot as the night of the party, and has Blanca play the end of the piano sonata and everyone repeat the conversation that followed. This time, when Blanca says she is tired, the group finds they can leave the salon, and then the mansion. The members of the small crowd outside see them exit and are able to pass through the gates to greet them. To give thanks for their salvation, most of the group from the salon attend a Te Deum service.

Afterward, neither the clergy, nor the churchgoers, can leave the cathedral. Some time later, the military fires on a group of people and drives them away from the cathedral gates. A flock of sheep enters the building as the screams and gunshots continue.


(from left to right): Jacqueline Andere, Silvia Pinal, and Enrique García Álvarez in a publicity photograph for the film.
The Trapped

The Rest
Rita Macedo in a publicity photo for the film
  • Pancho Córdova as Lucas, the doorman, who is the first servant to leave
  • Ángel Merino as the waiter who trips and drops a tray of food
  • Luis Lomelí as the mayor's representative
  • Guillermo Álvarez Bianchi as Pablo, the chef
  • Elodia Hernández as Camila, the older maid
  • Florencio Castelló as the bald waiter
  • Eric del Castillo as Deacon Sampson, who tutors and cares for the Ugalde children and takes part in the Te Deum service at the end of the film
  • Chel López as the military official who tells the mayor's representative that his men were unable to enter the mansion
  • David Hayat (credited as David Hayyad Cohen) as Pablo's sous-chef
  • Janet Alcoriza as the younger maid (uncredited)
  • Roberto Meyer as the "crazy" onlooker who is not allowed to try to get inside the mansion (uncredited)
  • Rita Macedo as a churchgoer (uncredited)


(from left to right) Ofelia Montesco, Xavier Loyá, Marilyn Monroe, unknown person in the back, Patricia Morán, Bertha Moss, Nadia Haro Oliva, and José Baviera on the set of the film.

The film was shot in less than six weeks, from January 29 to March 9, 1962.[4] American actress Marilyn Monroe traveled to Mexico during that period, and her trip included a visit to Churubusco Studios, where the film was being made. She visited the set and met Luis Buñuel, photographer Gabriel Figueroa, and the cast members of the film, with whom she took some pictures.[5][6][7]

Release and reception[edit]

The Exterminating Angel premiered at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, and was released in theaters in Mexico on October 1, 1964. It received critical acclaim. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 27 reviews, with an average score of 9.0/10; the site's "critics consensus" reads: "Societal etiquette devolves into depravity in Luis Buñuel's existential comedy, effectively playing the absurdity of civilization for mordant laughs".[8]


This film received the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.[9] At the 1963 Bodil Awards, it won the award for Best Non-European Film.[10]

Home media[edit]

The Criterion Collection released The Exterminating Angel on DVD on 10 February 2009,[11] and on Blu-ray in November 2016.[12]


Social class[edit]

Though Buñuel never explained how to interpret the film, leaving it to each viewer to decide, American film 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]

Scholar Robert Stam said in his book Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard that the film "is structured on the comic formula of a slow descent from normality into anarchy ... The 'Angel' executes a mission of social justice, an apocalyptic laying low of the noble and the powerful".[13]

Influence on the horror genre[edit]

In a piece on the horror film website Bloody Disgusting, Samuel Pierce noted parallels between The Exterminating Angel and the contemporary horror film, writing: "Within the film's already fascinating plot, there's plenty of poignant social commentary that will be just as familiar to horror fans. Though the film can be interpreted a number of ways, many of its themes are undeniable and as relevant today as they ever were. We see isolation drive madness. We see tribes form in times of strife. We see murder become more and more appealing. More than anything, however, The Exterminating Angel explores the hypocrisy of the social elite and the thin strands of society that keep them from utter depravity".[14]

Rather than a precursor to many contemporary horror films, some critics have classified The Exterminating Angel as a horror film itself. For example, Jonathan Romney of The Guardian called it a straightforward "claustrophobic horror story",[15] and film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum classified it as a "comic horror film".[16]

Cultural references[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ebert, Roger, The Exterminating Angel, RogerEbert.com, 11 May 1997. Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Tiempo Y Narración En el ángel Exterminador" [Time and Narration in The Exterminating Angel]. Xdoc.com (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 August 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2022. Efectivamente, el tiempo de realización fue escaso para una película como esta que se rodó en a penas dos meses, del 29 de enero al 9 de marzo de 1962 (54 días). Un tiempo realmente corto, considerando la complejidad que supone tener, en muchas veces, a los 22 actores conviviendo en el mismo plano. [Indeed, the production time was short for a film like this, which was shot in barely two months, from January 29 to March 9, 1962 (54 days). A really short time, considering the complexity of having, on many occasions, the 22 actors living together on the same shot.]
  5. ^ Chávez, Ericka (31 July 2022). "Ana Martín conoció a Marilyn Monroe en su juventud: contó cómo fue su encuentro". Univisión (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 31 July 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2022. En su paso por los Estudios Churubusco, visitó el set de la película El ángel exterminador, de Luis Buñuel. De esa ocasión incluso hay algunas fotografías de Marilyn Monroe junto al mencionado director de cine, el fotógrafo Gabriel Figueroa y otras estrellas. [During her time at the Churubusco Studios, she visited the set of the film The Exterminating Angel by Luis Buñuel. From that occasion there are even some photographs of Marilyn Monroe together with the aforementioned film director, photographer Gabriel Figueroa and other stars.]
  6. ^ Mayén, Velma (18 June 2022). "De Reforma hasta Acapulco: Los lugares que visitó Marilyn Monroe en su paso por México" [From Reforma to Acapulco: The places Marilyn Monroe visited on her way through Mexico]. escapadah (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 August 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  7. ^ Jacqueline Andere (15 November 2021). Cuando Jacqueline Andere conoció a Marilyn Monroe, De Primera Mano [When Jacqueline Andere Met Marilyn Monroe, First Hand] (YouTube) (in Spanish). Imagen Entretenimiento. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  8. ^ "The Exterminating Angel - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Exterminating Angel". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  10. ^ "Amerikanske film". bodilprisen.dk. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  11. ^ Spurlin, Thomas (11 February 2009). "The Exterminating Angel". DVD Talk. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  12. ^ Cole, Jake (11 December 2016). "Review: Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel on Criterion Blu-ray". Slant Magazine.
  13. ^ Stam, Robert (1992) [1985]. Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (reprint ed.). p. 185. ISBN 9780231079457.
  14. ^ Pierce, Samuel (28 May 2020). "Luis Buñuel's 'The Exterminating Angel' and its Ties to Modern Horror". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  15. ^ Romney, Jonathan (1 April 2017). "How Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel became opera's most surreal soiree". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1995). Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism. University of California Press. p. 51. ISBN 9780520086333.
  17. ^ Carr, Benjamin. "Vernal & Sere's "The Exterminating Angel" takes a seat at Buñuel's surreal table". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ISSN 1539-7459. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  18. ^ Voss, Brandon (14 October 2014). "Stephen Sondheim Is Working on a New Musical". The Advocate.
  19. ^ Wood, Alex (28 April 2021). "Sondheim's new musical Buñuel is reportedly no longer in development". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  20. ^ Stephen Sondheim Is Still Writing New Works, As "Company" Returns To Broadway, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 16 September 2021
  21. ^ Major, Michael. "Video: Nathan Lane Talks Reading of a New Sondheim Musical With Bernadette Peters". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  22. ^ Rosky, Nicole (16 March 2023). "Final Sondheim Musical, Here We Are, Will Get World Premiere This Fall". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  23. ^ Alex Ross (15 August 2016). "An Explosive Opera of The Exterminating Angel". The New Yorker.

External links[edit]