The Film Gang

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

Review by Dennis Morton:

Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when I see or hear the word Galapagos is Charles Darwin. But The Galapagos Affair, a very clever and imaginative documentary
put together by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller may change that.

The film opens with these words:
“As I think back on it all, I see the way in which life can make a poor end of fine and admirable beginnings. Five years ago we came to make an Eden on these shores, and had things gone as we hoped I truly believe we’d have remained here happily – dying peacefully in old age.”

These words were written by Dore Strauch. Cate Blanchett, the great Australian actress, lends her voice to Dore’s writing. Not just Dore’s words, but Blanchett’s recitation have already let us know that we’re in for more than a run-of-the-mill documentary.

Dore’s lament is followed by her companion’s rationale for having left Germany,
in 1929, to put down roots, figuratively and literally, on Floreana, one of the smaller islands of the Galapagos.

His name is Friedrich Ritter, and he writes: “Patience, as Nietzsche says, is the most difficult of virtues… Organized society appears to me as a huge impersonal monster forging ever new chains with which to shackle its members. Civilized man works only for money while the world chases madly after the ephemeral and valueless.” His words come to life with the voice of Thomas Kretschmann, a German actor.

When Dore and Friedrich settle on Floreana, they are its only human inhabitants, which is one of the reasons they chose it. We learn rather quickly that Friedrich is a first class misanthrope, so – when another couple, and their ill son, move to the island, it’s no surprise that Friedrich is not at all pleased. Grudgingly, he helps them find temporary lodging – in several caves previously used by pirates.

The irony is that Friedrich was inadvertently responsible for the new family’s arrival. He’d been sending occasional letters back to Germany, and somehow ‘the press’ had gotten wind of his and Dore’s adventurous decision. And that’s what motivated the newcomers. At least the first of them.

Soon, an opportunistic woman, and her two lovers, decide to join the crowd. She claims she’s a baroness and announces that she’ll be building a hotel on Floreana to accommodate wealthy travelers. Her imperious manner rankles Dore, Friedrich, and the recently arrived family.

Before long, we learn why the film is subtitled: Satan Came To Eden. I leave that for you to discover. There’s not a dull scene in this most unusual documentary. Old black & white film clips are interspersed with luscious full color shots of Floreana’s current flora and fauna. And there are wonderful interviews and recollections proffered by present day Floreaneans. The shots of the giant tortoises, alone, are almost enough reason to watch The Galapagos Affair. It is said that these amazing creatures can read the minds of humans. If they detect evil intent, they cast a curse upon the interloper. By film’s end, I can almost believe it.

With no hesitation, I recommend The Galapagos Affair. I urge you not to miss it.

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