The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

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galapags PHOTOI was excited to be returning to the Ken Cinema for the first time since hearing it would stay. I was more excited about the movie. The trailers made this documentary about a murder mystery on the Galapagos Islands look fascinating. It was almost like the Lord of the Flies story – but with adults.

A few big names were brought in to do the voice-overs on the written words of these island dwellers: Cate Blanchette, Josh Radnor, Connie Nielsen, Gustaf Skarsgard, and Diane Kruger. The still photos and film footage they got was astounding. A silent film that was made, and shown here – almost worth the price of admission. Add to all that, an incredible score by Laura Karpman.

You’ll have a problem keeping all the people straight over this two-hour film, which was all over the map (pun intended). It’s understandable that they wanted Floreana’s descendants to give their two-cents. They never really added a lot and it took away from the fascinating story we were originally being told. And maybe it’s because I was at a movie that started after 9:35 p.m., but it seemed to take forever until it got to the murder.

The love triangle we we’re promised in the trailers never really materializes. You see, the “baroness” that arrived on the island, showed up with these two men. I was under the impression that one of the men already living there would be lured in. Who wouldn’t be? It’s a new woman on the island who is cocky, looks a bit like a horse, and has poor hygiene (hey, it was the early ‘30s).

When the story began in the late ‘20s, it was interesting to learn about Dr. Ritter and his lover – a woman weak from multiple sclerosis. Both of them left their spouses to be together and create their own Garden of Eden. There has never been a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

He’s obsessed with reading Nietzsche and acting like a pompous boob. She’s lonely and bored out of her mind, and fantasizes about pirates coming to the island. She gets more affection from the animals living there, which only makes Ritter angrier. We can understand why she finds companionship from the burro, instead of the Nietzsche quoting ass she’s holed up with.

We’re also initially thinking, since they left German, that we’d be hearing about how the War was affecting their living situation in the Floreana Island.

When Heinz Wittmer reads newspaper stories of this little experiment, he figures he can bail on the war in Europe and live this life as well. His wife is pregnant, so he figures maybe Dr. Ritter can help out with that. So, there’s drama even before the baroness, and her guns and lovers, show up claiming the island as their own.

I am really hit-and-miss with Werner Herzog, but I couldn’t help wonder – had he done this documentary, how much fun it would’ve been to watch and listen to all these misguided souls seeking paradise on a secluded island that has the occasional drought.

The material is so fascinating, that it wouldn’t need Herzog to make it interesting; just another filmmaker that could’ve made this an hour long TV special, cutting out all the unnecessary bits with the descendants of the islands. Just being somebody living there, doesn’t give you any more insight into what happened in the early ‘30s than those of us watching.

It’s a bloated documentary that gets 2 out of 5 stars. I’ll only be at the Landmark in Kensington for another few days. If you’re interested, get over there soon.

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