Published Nov 07, 2017Promotional consideration provided by Cineplex
Though the uninitiated might associate opera with eras past, there is still plenty of invigorating work still being created. Take, for example, The Exterminating Angel — the 2016 opera that makes its debut with the Metropolitan Opera this season.
Sung in English and directed by Thomas Adès, the piece is an adaptation of surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel's work of the same name. His darkly comic tale skewers the upper classes when a group of wealthy aristocrats become trapped at a dinner party, unable to leave.
The symbolism of The Exterminating Angel is not entirely obvious, but many interpret the work as a critique of the Spanish elite. In an age of great economic disparity, it only makes sense that the work would have an extended shelf life via a new opera.
The Met's performance of The Exterminating Angel will be broadcast in select Cineplex theatres on November 18. To help prepare you for this audio-visual event, we've selected five films that share themes with the opera.
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Of course, without Buñuel's source material there would be no opera whatsoever. The film — a surreal satire that stands among Buñuel's best work — pairs bizarre fantasy elements with an incisive, cutting look at society's elites. For 55 years, cinephiles have appreciated the film's ability to blend weirdness with a culturally critical backbone.
The Party (1968)
Elite dinner parties are the perfect backdrop for chaotic foibles. Take, for example, the Peter Sellers classic in which an accidental invitation to a Hollywood bigwig's party ends in utter chaos. It may not be quite as out-there as Buñuel's work, but The Party still offers plenty of unexpected weirdness.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
A full decade after The Exterminating Angel, Buñuel returned to the elite dinner table for more social commentary. While his characters previously couldn't escape their social gathering, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie saw them perched at the table with no food available to them. It's a spiritual sequel in the sense that it explores vanity and upper-class emptiness through Buñuel's inimitable, surrealist lens.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
The 2011 fantasy-comedy — a hit with history classes throughout North America — sees Owen Wilson's character head back in time every night at midnight. Throughout, he hobnobs with plenty of the art world's elites, and at one point he even gives Buñuel the idea for The Exterminating Angel. Though it's obviously not factual, the film does do a good job of contextualizing Buñuel within the art world.
This year, Darren Aronofsky surprised fans with the shocking and strange Jennifer Lawrence movie mother!, which still has audiences confused. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Aronofsky said he was inspired by Buñuel's ability to talk about the world through allegory. "There were a lot of influences. The Giving Tree was a big influence, actually. The film is kind of a horror version of The Giving Tree," Aronofsky said. "There was Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, where he basically took a slice of society and made a whole big comment about the world. Also I just had this idea. I kind of wanted to return back to my horror roots and make something scary again."