This documentary recounts the strange but true tale of a group of Europeans in the 1930s who decided to leave the insanity of the modern world behind and move to one of the smallest of the Galapagos, the uninhabited Floreana Island. It began with just one couple, Berlin doctor Friedrich Ritter and his mistress and acolyte Dore Strauch. Friedrich was obsessed with Nietzsche and saw the world’s growing capitalism as a sign that society was doomed. But as soon as the press found out about the couple, they began publishing stories of the new Adam and Eve and attracted others to the island, much to Freidrich’s chagrin.
The next to come were another German couple, Heinz and Margaret Wittmer. When Margaret arrived on the island 5 months pregnant, Freidrich was quick to point out that his days as a physician were over and they could not expect any help from him. So much for friendly neighbors. But they soon settled in to a tolerable mutual existence. It was the third group to arrive that really messed with the tranquility of Floreana. The outrageous Baroness Eloise Von Wagner along with her two lovers arrived on the scene with grand plans for a hotel that would bring visitors from all over to the island. She also had a penchant for creating media buzz and succeeded in convincing the governor of the Galapagos to grant her property rights to the majority of the island. It was an untenable situation for Heinz and Margaret and Dore and Freidrich. Their paradise had fallen victim to the petty societal woes they has tried to leave behind. And then one afternoon The Baroness and one of her lovers disappeared without a trace.
One story was that she and the lover had decided to head to Tahiti. But all her possessions were still in the house and the two of them were never seen nor heard from again. The other lover could not leave the island quickly enough and when he did he died in a tragic boating accident. And then Freidrich fell victim to some bad chicken and expired. The filmmakers give a lot of info, but somehow there is no answer to the mystery or mysteries. Was Freidrich poisoned? I kept thinking this tale would be better told as a “based on a true story” flick. It has all the requisite kookie characters and several mysterious deaths at the center. The way this doc relates it is all setup and no finish. And all the modern Galapagos dwellers who weigh in on the mystery and on their lives on the islands don’t add to the story, but take you out of the period and the lives of the original settlers. A great part of of the story is told through letters, diaries, and books written by the surviving settlers themselves. They’d be a great basis for an absorbing feature. Sadly, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden takes an intriguing story and just gives you a taste of what could have been.