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article imageReview: Adventure leads to murder in ‘The Galápagos Affair’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 10, 2014 in Entertainment
‘The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden’ is the true-crime tale of idealistic dreams gone awry in the strange and alluring landscape of the Galápagos Islands in the 1930s.
When it feels like the world is closing in or becoming too unbearable, many joke that they're going to pack up and go live on an island. But in the 1930s, people actually did just that. The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden tells the true story of a couple, playfully nicknamed the "modern Adam and Eve" by media, who left Germany for the seclusion promised by an uninhabited island off the coast of Ecuador.
One day in 1929, Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his lover Dore Strauch each left their respective spouses and sailed off to realize their shared dream of escaping civilization on a private island called Floreana. But it was far from paradise. They had to first cultivate the land and make it habitable. Friedrich’s intellectual approach to life enhances the island's loneliness for Dore, though she despises the intrusion of another family as much as him. However the addition of a self-styled Swiss Family Robinson, a.k.a. the Wittmers, was much preferred over the imposition of a Viennese baroness who along with her two lovers attempts to claim the isle as her own. After several years, the experiment concluded in several unsolved deaths and disappearances.
Baroness Eloise von Wagner and her two lovers  Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz  in ‘The Galáp...
Baroness Eloise von Wagner and her two lovers, Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz, in ‘The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden’
USC Special Collections / Zeitgeist Films
With the current, immoderate reliance on technology and consequent constant connectivity, it's difficult to comprehend Friedrich and Dore's extreme lifestyle choice. Using newly discovered home movies and archival footage as well as detailed journal entries, directors/producers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine try to convey the couple’s motivations and realizations. However, not everyone was confounded by their actions. Their adventure attracted worldwide attention and actually sparked a trend with a number of families following in their footsteps to lead a simpler life in the archipelago. To complement the experiences of Friedrich and Dore, filmmakers also interview modern day islanders, many of whom are descendants of those who similarly chose to survive off the land on the neighbouring island Santa Cruz.
This intriguing murder mystery is skilfully brought to life by the voices of Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, Connie Nielsen, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Kretschmann, Gustaf Skarsgård and Josh Radnor. Their readings of the various diaries negate the need for any visual recreations. Simply relying on the words and historical images is enough to create a captivating narrative. The story is divided into chapters, though this seems unnecessary and somewhat disruptive to the flow of the documentary.
Geller and Goldfine do an excellent job of weaving together this sensational tale with the everyday occurrences of people in similar circumstances.
Directors: Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch and Thomas Kretschmann
More about The Galapagos Affair Satan Came to Eden, Friedrich Ritter, Dore Strauch, Documentary, modern Adam and Eve
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