Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

Are odd people attracted to small islands? Or does being on a small island mean that odd people can get away with more extreme behaviour? Can you ever find paradise? And would it really be on a small island? Those are the philosophical questions posed by this documentary.

Of course there is a more direct question about a disappearance that occurred on Floreana in the 1930s. This story was apparently a world wide sensation at the time. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden tells that story.

Dore and Dr Ritter
Disenchanted by modern civilisation and bourgeoisie, German doctor Friedrich Ritter and his patient, Dore Strauch, go to live on the then deserted Floreana island in the Galapagos in 1929. News of their life on the island ends up in German newspapers and attracts another German family, followed by a self style Baroness and her two lovers. Each group of people on the island resents the arrival of the next group. One weekend there is a disappearance. Everyone has a theory.

Wittmer family
Despite one of the original inhabitants surviving until 2000, there is no information presented newer than the 1930s. Interviews with current inhabitants of the Galapagos are mostly for background colour. Unfortunately while the Baroness is clearly the most flamboyant character in the film, no-one has traced her family and unlike the others she left effectively no written record.

Philippson Lorenz and the Baroness
George Allan Hancock an American millionaire visits the island several times, filming the Baroness and the other inhabitants. That silent film, with voice over by actors reading from writings of the time, form the basis of this Galapagos mystery story. Mostly it is quite slickly put together, except perhaps some of the interviews with current inhabitants of the Galapagos, which deviate a long way from the core story and belong in a different documentary.

This isn't the only story of odd things happening on isolated islands. For instance the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean have a story of two rival private kingdoms one of which survived until 1978.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

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