Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden' Tells A Tale Tale, But Doesn't Quite Thrill

The Playlist By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist April 11, 2014 at 8:33AM

As far as documentary subjects go, it doesn't get much juicier than the tale that launches "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden." In the early 1930s, Friedrich Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch split from their respective partners, left Germany and headed to the tiny, uninhabited, untamed Floreana Island in the Galapagos, where they dreamed of building a bucolic life, where they would rest, study philosophy and be able to pursue intellectual matters without the interruption of modern living. But those hopes are dashed when they are soon followed by others who come to the island, with scandal and possibly murder not far behind, with a yarn that is as unbelievable now as it probably was back then. But what should be a gripping, true crime/mystery story gets often bogged down by a lack of focus from filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller, who don't always realize the central saga can stand well enough on its own.
0
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden

As far as documentary subjects go, it doesn't get much juicier than the tale that launches "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden." In the early 1930s, Friedrich Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch split from their respective partners, left Germany and headed to the tiny, uninhabited, untamed Floreana Island in the Galapagos, where they dreamed of building a bucolic life, where they would rest, study philosophy and be able to pursue intellectual matters without the interruption of modern living. Those hopes are dashed when they are soon followed by others who come to the island, with scandal and possibly murder not far behind, and a yarn that is as unbelievable now as it probably was back then. But what should be a gripping, true crime/mystery story gets often bogged down by a lack of focus from filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller, who don't always realize the central saga can stand well enough on its own.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden

Certainly, the cast of characters and personalities is pretty rich. Friedrich is a hardcore Nietzsche devotee, and a doctor, but one who doesn't brook any weakness, not even from Dore, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His prescription is essentially that she shouldn't think like a sick person, and he's disheartened when she can't keep up with the physically demanding labor of clearing the land and building shelter. He's even more dismayed when she showers affection on a donkey, but soon he'll be able to point his disappointment elsewhere. Reading about Friedrich and Dore's exploits in German newspapers after their letters home are leaked, Heinz Wittmer and his pregnant wife Margret follow in their footsteps, but are almost immediately rebuffed on their arrival. Friedrich wants no part of them, and even refuses to tend to Margret medically, but the pair of couples quickly unite against a common enemy: Baroness Eloise von Wagner.

Arriving in tow with two young men, Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz, Eloise behaves like royalty, expects to be welcomed without question and has an even bolder plan: to build a hotel. This incenses Friedrich, while Eloise and her lovers close proximity to Heinz and Margret also causes another array of problems. It's a rich, dramatic and fascinating stew, and at least for a while, Goldfine and Geller make it compelling. An all star voice cast including Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann and Josh Radnor give life to the letters and writings from all the players involved that have survived, providing character context this kind of documentary rarely gets. Moreover, home video footage from the time also brings additional texture, but the film takes far too long to get to the good stuff.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden

One can't fault the ambition, though the execution is clumsy, with the directors spending just as much time on the modern day inhabitants of the island, where the titular 'Galapagos Affair' is still the source of some chatter. The problem is, there's not much insight from those either directly related to the original settlers, or others who have attempted to parse the gossip and find the truth. These meandering sections of the film dilute the magnetism of the central mystery, one that involves delusions of fame, a cheap silent movie, a possible conspiracy, tragic deaths, jealousy and more. The richness of the material that Goldfine and Geller have access to is more than sufficient, but as 'The Galapagos Affair' creeps toward the two hour mark, with each minute making it clear that not only will there be no solution, but no real underlying thematic current either.

Though flirting with myth and fable — including an opening teasing the Curse of the Giant Tortoise — "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden" doesn't reach those heights. Even the subtitle is misleading as it's unclear who the Satan of this tale actually is. Of the filmmakers want to join the line between the unknowability of evil and what unfolds on the island, it never quite comes together. It's likely you haven't heard a story as wild as this one in a while, but the digressions diminish how weird and odd it all was, particularly as the events unfolded in the span of a few short years. Goldfine and Geller want to understand the motivations behind the actions that led to what can only be presumed to be murder, but they forget that sometimes just experiencing a tale as surreal is this one is all you need to know to comprehend that there are no easy explanations. [B-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates