Primarily, we follow the adventures of Dore Strauch and Friedrich Ritter, who, in 1929, decided to get as far away from normal civilisation as possible, abandoning their friends and family in Germany, for a serene life on the tiny island of Floreana. Living off the land, they inadvertently gained notoriety in their native country, when their personal letters back home were intercepted by the press. Naturally, others were too inspired to move out to this idyllic paradise, though no sooner after people arrived, did some then disappear – in cases still unsolved to this day, making for a chilling piece of cinema that has no definitive finale.
The wealth of archival footage is simply breathtaking, as the entire two hour production is narrated using the genuine, perennial words written by those who inhabited the island, in memos, diary entires and books about their experiences. However what’s truly exceptional, is that each anecdote appears to be accompanied by footage from the time, as Strauch and Ritter, as well as the “antagonist” of the piece, Baroness Von Wagner (who could be played by Maggie Gyllenhaal in a biopic), seemed to document vast proportions of their experiences in both photographs and moving pictures. Almost as though they were aware that it may make for essential viewing decades down the line. As a result this piece feels so inherently cinematic, as not only is this murder mystery plot already (accidentally) abiding by the laws of the genre – but we’re witness to real life footage to keep this story compelling, and so real. What also helps in this instance, is to have talent such as Cate Blanchett, Sebastian Koch, Diane Kruger and Josh Radnor, amongst others, narrate this piece.
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden has such a duality in the narrative too, as the focus is by no means limited to the disappearances, but what it was that had enticed these people into just leaving civilisation to move to an uninhabited, remote island. That being said, the entire early stages of the piece where we explore these very matters, there remains an underlying, foreboding element, as we know of the inevitable, sinister fate that lies ahead. Geller and Goldfine can be accused of telling this tale in a quite elongated fashion, but it’s pensive nature allows for us to revel in the suspense, while there’s no denying they have the footage to carry this tale.
Working as a real study of mankind, such a notion is especially prevalent when exploring the tragic inevitability of war. As soon as ‘intruders’ head to these isolated islands, they have a power rush and want to rule, and what transpires is this innate, intrinsic need for conflict. The introduction of money doesn’t help, either. It just goes to show that in a setting renowned for its exotic creatures – where David Attenborough has recorded nature shows, studying animal life meticulously over the years – it’s still the human beings that make for the most fascinating subjects.