Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Galapagos Affair

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

From Daniel Geller and Dayna  Goldfine (Ballets Russes) comes a documentary that is nothing less than a real life enactment of "Lord of The Flies".

In 1930, a Nietzschean German doctor Ritter as his anti-capitalist lover Dore Strauch fled Berlin to the Gal√°pagos Islands. Embittered by the bourgeoisie, they settle on Floreana Island, wanting to be solitary and self sufficient. But due to a "Believe It or Not!" hunger for sensation, the couple's  adventures on an untamed island, full of huge tortoises and espresso-black lizards made them known in the German press.

Heinz and Margret Wittmer arrive to settle on a neighboring island with their son Harry who is often sick.

Tensions rise.

Dr. Ritter does not want to be consulted by neighbors, but through gradual social visits and gift exchanges, bonds are forged. A commune of five emerges.

But, there are unwelcome footprints on the spirited and sable earth with the arrival of aspiring entrepreneur von Wagner Bosquet, who declares the neighboring islands her business alone, to build a hotel. This sensual and self important "Baroness" gains the reputation of a libertine and is serialized in pulp stories in the 30s as being a sex crazed seductress with a taste for whips and domination.

After "The Baroness' " henchman began to bicker with the Wittmers and Dr. Ritter, (involving stolen mail and the baroness' murdered donkey), she announces that she is taking a trip to Tahiti. In an eerie omen, she leaves  her lucky copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray behind and has left no signs of departure.

Some have speculated that this Svengali-like siren was murdered.

Stranger still, her assistant, Lorenz took a boat to Santa Cruz, bereft and lost.

His mummified corpse was found months later, almost calcified---a fossil of pain.

This is a lively, gripping tale with haunting footage. Both Ritter and "The Baroness" slowly emerge as an autocratic dictator that may have turned a reluctant submissive under Bosquet's Medusa glare and her leering lazy eyes, akin to those of a panther.

At midpoint,the story lessens in magnetism a bit with mentions of new families coming and going and trying to make it after the disappearances (The De Roys, The Angermeyers) and you might find that you need a smartphone visit to

There are images of "The Baroness" in full pulp sexuality with her nipples visible that are as lurid as a Weird Tales cover or an Edgar Rice Burroughs cliffhanger, but for the most part we are only given impressions of intrigue. What really happened? There is no telling.

One appearance that stands out above the rest is the figure of Fritz Heiber, grandnephew of Fredrich Ritter, who is absolutely riveting in intensity on par with the actor Klaus Kinski. With his mad blond hair and staring devil eyes, he exists as a solitary spectator watching the fall of Heaven.

"The Galapagos Affair" works best in its telling of a numinous isle with cultish characters wishing to strike out on their own, and  almost making a fetish out of nature.

It seems that the Galapagos Tortoise is indeed the guardian of these shores. Woe to those who try to raise an opportune, materialist eye to these creatures and knock on their shells.

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