Telluride Film Review: ‘The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden’

Peter Debruge

With just nine inhabitants — including a bitter German doctor, a haughty French baroness and a family of social exiles — the island of Floreadora becomes a Clue-worthy backdrop for conflict and murder in “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden.” But this pulpy 1930s mystery makes up only a fraction of Daniel Geller and Dayne Goldfine’s disorganized docu, which consists of three fat chapters and an unnecessary epilogue, alternating between vintage material (copious home movies and letters read by the likes of Cate Blanchett and Diane Kruger) and off-topic interviews with the folks who live there now.

To their credit, the duo behind “Ballet Russes” have hooked a whopper of a tale (writer William Boyd has been trying to tell it since 1985), though the overlong cut shown at Telluride could use some major restructuring if Zeitgeist Films hopes to lure travelers away from the comforts of more civilized fare. Despite the myriad digressions (including abundant footage of the local tortoises and world-famous finches), the helmers seem most interested in why these nine would cut ties with civilization and how such personalities are especially likely to clash when strangers upset their self-posed isolation. That would be a fine subject, if they could cut out all the talking heads (among whom even the descendants can offer only hearsay) and focus on the twisted island-survival scenario of which Charles Darwin would surely approve.

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