‘Galapagos Affair’ Recounts Real-Life Sinister Events on the Island

Angelo Franco


The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden      

3 stars (out of four)

Not rated

Zeitgeist Films


This film has it all: intrigue, jealousy, European aristocracy, murder.  It’s also set in a seemingly idyllic utopia, a tiny piece-of-rock island off the coast of Ecuador that lends its Darwinian fame as the stage for this commendable documentary.  That would be the island of Floreana, a 67 square-mile desolate land in the southern region of the Galapagos archipelago, where Friedrich Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch decide to relocate to escape modern civilization and build their own Eden. 


Among the tortoises and the lizards, Friedrich, who fancies himself a philosopher with a slightly manic obsession with Nietzsche, busies himself with ideas of writing his masterpiece while Dore is tasked with the daily duties needed for survival, which include keeping Friedrich’s ego in check.  It’s a bizarre plan as it is, and it gets even more outlandish when the Ritters’ correspondence to their acquaintances in Europe gets leaked to the press, who eat up their story and proclaim them the new age Adam and Eve.


All is swell in Floreana until another couple arrives with the intention of setting up permanent camp there, presumably following on the footsteps of the now fairly famous Friedrich and Dore, much to the Ritters’ discontent.  Soon after, a self-proclaimed baroness arrives with her two lovers.  The baroness plans to build Hacienda Paradiso, a destination for tourists.  The year is 1934, and the island of Floreana is suddenly turned into a boiling pot of tension, envy, and treachery.  Two people soon disappear without a trace.  Another dies, questionably so, of food poisoning, while someone else’s offspring runs away with a beloved.



It sounds like pulp fiction, a dream for many a filmmaker and storytellers, except for the fact that it’s all true.  Composed of found vintage footage of the inhabitants of Floreana, the film traces the story like a penny dreadful mystery, building on the suspense of the environment the participants created for themselves.  Sometimes, the film does this too much.  It falters when it tries to do too many things at once, explaining folklore and looking for explanations on why anyone would want to do what these people did, when the heart of it ultimately lies in the preposterousness of their reasoning. 


The interviews with descendants of the original “Affair” of 1934 are illuminating and fascinating, though at times completely irrelevant.  Nevertheless, the sense of mystery is always there, helped in part by the voice talents of a top-notch cast (including Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, and Connie Nielsen), and the effervescent and ominous music by Laura Karpman. The Galapagos Affair is a strange and compelling documentary the works like a fine mystery movie.  


Author Bio:

Angelo Franco is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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