Hollywood goes to great lengths to come up with stories for the screen. But often we find that the real life shenanigans of people being people — flawed, eccentric and perhaps even dangerous — make for some of the best tales.
Such is the case with documentary filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine, who looked back down the corridor of time to the island of Floreana in the Galapagos — and the bizarre events that unfolded there — for their film, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden.
It is due to make its DVD debut from Zeitgeist Films on Sept. 9. Its theatrical run (arthouse and major metro) generated ticket sales of $242,288 and the ARR for its post-Labor Day release window works out to 158 days.
With economic uncertainty and storm clouds on the horizon in Europe during the 1930s a group of German ex-pats descended on Floreana to live alone and be carefree. The first to arrive were Friedrich Ritter (voiced over by Thomas Kretschmann) and his sickly paramour Dore Strauch (voice of Cate Blanchett), who we learn of through letters (written mainly by Ritter) and photos that the filmmakers have assembled into a narrative.
History records that soon after Ritter and Strauch set up their “homestead” on the island another German family arrived, the Wittmers — husband, wife (who would give birth to first child born in the Galapagos) and teenage son. They too set up camp and a sort of understanding was reached that they would leave each other alone. Peace.
This paradise was turned topsy-turvy soon after when young Austrian Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet (voiced by Connie Nielsen) — who claimed to be a baroness — and her two German lovers set up shop on the island. Flamboyant, eccentric and by even today’s standards, “liberated.” It would prove to be too much for the standoffish German settlers.
You can’t make this stuff up … when the ménage à trois went south, the spurned lover, a fellow by the name of Lorenz, sought refuge with the Wittmers and then on a spring day in 1934 both the “baroness” and her lover disappeared (a hastily prepared voyage to Tahiti was the story). Ritter, as history records, suspected the Wittmers and their “guest” of doing away with the pair.
It gets better. Lorenz decides to leave the island and catches a ride with a passing fisherman … their bodies were found several months later rotting on the northern most island in the chain (Floreana being the southern most in the chain!).
About six months after the baroness vanished and Lorenz met his doom, Ritter suddenly went toes-up as a result of food poisoning. Mrs. Wittmer (voiced by Diane Kruger) recorded that Ritter declared that Strauch did him in!
Agatha Christie in Darwin’s paradise … The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden is well-worth a look come Sept. 9 if you can’t catch it at your local cinema.
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