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The Exterminating Angel
File:The Exterminating Angel (film).jpg
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Screenplay byLuis Buñuel
Story byLuis Buñuel
Luis Alcoriza
Produced byGustavo Alatriste
StarringSilvia Pinal
Enrique Rambal
Distributed byGustavo Alatriste
Release date
May 1962
(Cannes Film Festival)
Running time
93 minutes

The Exterminating Angel (Spanish: El ángel exterminador), is a 1962 surrealist film, written and directed by Luis Buñuel, starring Silvia Pinal, and produced by her then-husband Gustavo Alatriste. Sharply satirical and allegorical, the film contains a view of human nature suggesting "mankind harbors savage instincts and unspeakable secrets".[1]

It is considered one of the best 1,000 films by The New York Times.[2]


During a formal dinner party at the lavish mansion of Señor Edmundo Nóbile and his wife, Lucia, 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 cool and guide the guests through the ordeal. One of the guests, the elderly Sergio Russell, dies, and his body is placed in a large cupboard. Much later in the film, Béatriz and Eduardo, a young couple about to be married, lock themselves in a closet and commit suicide.

The guests eventually manage to break open a wall 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 reveals to Nóbile that one of his patients, Leonora, is dying from cancer and accepts a secret supply of morphine from the host to keep her pain under control. The supply of drugs is however stolen by Francis and Juana, a brother and sister. Ana, a Jew 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") sees 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 though, 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, and leaves it for the viewer to come to their own understanding, one critic, Roger Ebert, wrote a lengthy dissertation of his 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]


  • Silvia Pinal as Leticia "La Valkiria"
  • Enrique García Álvarez as Alberto Roc
  • Jacqueline Andere as Alicia de Roc
  • César del Campo as Col. Alvaro
  • Nadia Haro Oliva as Ana Maynar
  • Ofelia Montesco as Beatriz
  • Patricia de Morelos as Blanca
  • Augusto Benedico as Dr. Carlos Conde
  • Luis Beristáin as Cristian Ugalde
  • Enrique Rambal as Edmundo Nóbile
  • Xavier Massé as Eduardo
  • Xavier Loyá as Francisco Avila
  • Ofelia Guilmáin as Juana Avila
  • Claudio Brook as Julio, the majordomo
  • José Baviera as Leandro Gomez
  • Bertha Moss as Leonora
  • Lucy Gallardo as Lucía Nóbile
  • Tito Junco as Raúl
  • Patricia Morán as Rita Ugale
  • Antonio Bravo as Sergio Russell
  • Rosa Elena Durgel as Silvia
  • Ryan Schneider as Freckle Chico


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]

Cultural references[]

  • The title of the One Foot in the Grave episode, "The Exterminating Angel" (1995), refers to a scene in which numerous characters are trapped in a conservatory (though unlike the film, they are physically locked in).[citation needed]
  • The The Creatures' album, Anima Animus (1999), includes a song titled "Exterminating Angel".
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Older and Far Away" (2002), references the movie when a set of characters is unable to leave a house after a party. Initially, the characters seems to be psychologically unable to leave, but later the characters desire to leave but physically cannot, due to a spell.[citation needed]
  • The Secret Chiefs 3's album, Book of Horizons (2004), contains a track called "Exterminating Angel".
  • In the film Midnight in Paris (2011), the main character, Gil, travels back in time to 1920s Paris and suggests a story to a perplexed young Buñuel about guests who arrive for a dinner party and can’t leave.
  • In October 2014, Stephen Sondheim revealed that he and playwright David Ives were working on a new musical with a plot inspired by both The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.[5]
  • The Salzburg Festival presented the world premiere of the opera The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès in 2016.[6]

See also[]

  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972 French film; French: Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie)
  • Los Últimos Días (2013 Spanish film; English: The Last Days)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Roger Ebert, The Exterminating Angel,, May 11, 1997.
  2. The Film Critics of The New York Times (2004). "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: The Exterminating Angel". Retrieved 2009-02-22.
  4. "Amerikanske film". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  5. Voss, Brandon (2014-10-14). "Stephen Sondheim Is Working on a New Musical". The Advocate.
  6. Clements, Andrew (30 July 2016). "The Exterminating Angel review – Adès delivers unmissable operatic adaptation". The Guardian.

External links[]

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