Required Watching: "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes To Eden"
By Keith Gatchel
We all have our guilty pleasures. And, gosh darn it, we earned it after a hard day at work not killing anyone, then possibly an evening nurturing a person, pet, or plant on a scale of importance. But, there’s a lot of movies out there, and Ryan Murphy will always birth other shows. “Required Watching” is a column highlighting weird-ass documentaries currently streaming online.
The Documentary: The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes To Eden (2014), Netflix
As the 1920s started to wind down, Dr. Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch read whole bunch of Nietzsche and started to hate post-war/pre-war Germany even more than most every other German. So, they said, “Fuck you, we’re out,” and went to live on Floreana, a 67-mile square island in the Galapagos. Their only means of communication to the rest of the world was a mailbox on the other side of the island from where they were which would get visited twice a year. Also, Friedrich was a huge, toxic douche of a person.
After a year or so of living alone, Dore went to the mailbox one day and found that her friends sent her clippings of how famous they were. Folks back home had taken the pictures and sent them to the press. They became pop culture fodder as the modern Adam and Eve, and they made it look good. This eventually prompted another couple to show up on a boat: Heinz and Margret Wittmer, and Heinz’s kid Hank. Friedrich, who was tolerating none of this shit, said, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” by marching them to the other side of the island where they could promptly fuck off.
Accurate vs. Artistic:
Unless there’s a major part of the story that writer and directors Dayna Goldfine and Daniel Geller left out, there’s no reason to think much of what we’re shown has been manipulated or contrived at all. The movie consists of modern footage of Floreana as it is now with its residence, but the real meat is the 16mm footage of the settlers along with their journals (read by an impressive booking of actors, like Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger and Connie Nielsen). Considering that this story overtook their original plan of simply making a documentary about the Galapagos Islands, and the amount of time spent with the current residents tells us they’re not interested in exaggerating a story that already fills the running time of a motion picture as it is.
Why You Should Watch It:
The movie is a template of what makes a good historical documentary. The filmmakers were fortunate enough that all the settlers brought film and journals. All of whom at some points get very candid with their entries. Dore admits she's getting too weak for the work. Fredrich has too much to do to survive to get any writing done. The filmmakers are smart to step out of the way and let them tell their story almost 90 years later (with the benefit of award winning actors). It just happens to be a Greek tragedy in real life, the hubris being the very modern fantasy of getting away from it all. So, it shows you what to look for later on in other documentaries: a solid story, letting the sources and material speak for themselves, not staging moments, no forced editing, etc.
What You Should Watch After:
This was a bit heavy. So, as a chaser after murder on an island, end your evening with the CGI animated short The Legend of The Crabe Phare, about another group of cursed island inhabitants whose deaths are much, much more adorable.