The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine
Starring Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Diane Kruger and Connie Nielsen
Darwin meets Hitchcock in this documentary. Directors Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine have created a parable about the search for paradise, set in the brutal yet alluring landscape of the Galapagos Islands, which interweaves an unsolved 1930s murder mystery with stories of present day Galapagos pioneers. A gripping tale of idealistic dreams gone awry, featuring voice-over performances by Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, and Gustaf Skarsgard.
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★★★★ review by Chris Hormann on Letterboxd
An intriguing true life tale of paradise sought and lost in the Galapagos Islands. The set-up is pure Agatha Christie and the filmmakers cleverly use archival footage with direct narrative from the time (with an excellent voice cast which includes Cate Blanchett and Sebastian Koch). While there is context given to the Galapagos Islands and some of its other inhabitants this can sometimes feel extraneous and takes us away from the central story which is thrilling in its own right - a true life 'Evil Under the Sun'.
★★★½ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
In the 1930s two German families and a mysterious Baroness (and her two lovers) moved to the deserted island of Floreana in the Galapagos island chain west of Ecuador. They arrived separately; and they apparently lived in disharmony until some of them mysteriously disappeared, died or escaped the island. In any case, what really happened remains a mystery to this day.
Using a surprising amount of actual film footage from the time along with interviews with some of the children of the original group and others, the filmmakers have strung together the makings of a mystery thriller. Occasionally they would intercut ludicrous metaphorical scenes of animals in nature to heighten the mystery. But mostly this is an entertaining, stranger-than-fiction murder mystery. Or maybe not. One thing is certain...at this point nothing is certain about what happened back then and all the eye witnesses are gone. Bottom line: this film occupies the border area between documentary and fiction film; but either way it is diverting.
★★★★ review by HotDonkeyBear on Letterboxd
An unbelievable tale well told. Part Agatha Christie, part Hitchcock and told via islander interviews and narrated from diaries, The Galapagos Affair weaves a series of mysteries which include deception, disappearances, poisonings and gruesome deaths all centred a series idyllic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Captivating storytelling at its very best.
★★★★ review by Terése Flynn on Letterboxd
About the time the Second World War started, a group of German settlers and paradise seekers, started a war of their own on one of the Galapagos Islands. In this documentary we will hear a stranger than fiction kind of a story of what happened on this island. With the help of letters written by the settlers and interviews with people living on the nearby islands, a unbelievable murder mystery case is unfolding. Just as we get to know a bunch of really odd personalities. Actually, this documentary would've worked just as good without the mystery part of it because of this. Maybe it would've worked better without it even.
Make no mistake though, this is no Investigation Discovery kind of documentary. "The Galapagos Affair" is a well directed film with tons of actual footage. One of the best documentaries that are available to stream on Netflix (US)
★★★½ review by Thomas Williams on Letterboxd
An almost stranger-than-fiction tale of paradise found and paradise lost is recounted in the documentary The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, a true-crime mystery that unfolded in the remote islands off the South American coast during the 1930s that remains unsolved to this day.
Tiring of conventional life in Germany, a doctor and his sickly mistress retreat from civilization and head to the furthest reaches of the earth -- the unsettled islands of the nature-filled Galapagos Islands. A family of three soon joins them on the island and tensions begin to build as each have contrasting opinions of what the isle should be like. Things change even more when a beguiling baroness and her two lovers arrive on the island hoping to scout out a location for a fancy hotel.
Things happen. Bad things.
Told through narration by the reading of the actual people's journals and diary entries of their time on the island, the visuals of the film are as equally fascinating as a surprising amount of actual video footage was recorded of the various adventurers. It is as if it was all meant to happen ... so we'd be intrigued anew 80 years later!
There are some present day residents of the island(s) I was uncertain as to why they were included in the documentary as they had no real connection to the true events that came about on the island of Floreana and some of them weaken the film's narrative; but other than them the doc is a strong one.
This little story has remarkably remained secret over the decades ... I'm surprised Hollywood has not tried to adapt this into a jaw-dropping suspense thriller as nobody on the island knew what to think of any of the others once mysterious things started to happen. What did happen? I watched the documentary and am still unsure. It is a perfect mystery ... or it is a perfect hoax.
The film is intriguing and made me think of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I wish there was more to know ... but there isn't. It is an eternal mystery ...
"A closed mouth admits no flies."
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