The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden has way too long of a title. The subtitle is a reference to something the viewer will probably be unfamiliar with until the epilogue (it’s the title of a book by one of the documentary’s players), but at least it shows a certain engagement from the filmmakers. Their enthusiasm for their project doesn’t forgive its problems, but it does make them seem far more affable.
Unless, of course, one reads about how there are no tortoises on the Eden island, something the documentary implies many times throughout its really long two hour runtime.
Some of the other problems are side effects of the film itself. Directors Geller and Goldfine cut from 16:9 interview and modern location footage to old, black and white 4:3 footage, which they imply was taken by the island’s settlers. It’s always implied (the filmmakers have no presence until the epilogue either), but it eventually becomes clear a lot of this footage ostensibly from the 1930s is just modern stuff run through a filter.
And the titular Affair? The big mystery? It’s nowhere near as interesting as the lives of the people living on the island the filmmakers do interview. These sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters of mostly German expats who went to the end of the world to get away from Hitler (in some cases) is far more interesting than the mystery. The mystery doesn’t have enough information to be mysterious.
Galapagos is long, professional and meanderingly pointless.
Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine; screenplay by Goldfine, Geller and Celeste Schaefer Snyder, based on books, journals, articles and letters by Dore Strauch, Margret Wittmer, Friedrich Ritter, Hinz Wittmer and John Garth; director of photography, Geller; edited by Bill Weber; music by Laura Karpman; produced by Geller, Goldfine and Snyder; released by Zeitgeist Films.
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