on 24 January 2002
This film portrays the abysmal differences between people with different educations and senses of morality. At the same time, it is a commentary on the hopelessness of a society where no one understands why the status quo should be tampered with. This is the story of a nun who is forced by circumstances to leave her convent and visit her uncle, falling under the influence of her world wise cousin. She tries to maintain her ideals by doing good works, attempting to improve the conditions of the poor in her town, but is taken advantage of and despised by the very people she means to help.
No summary could really do this film justice since the visual impressions and symbols are just as important as the express message portrayed by the events.
Viridiana was the first film Bunuel filmed from exile and (so the story goes) the church was in an uproar and adamant that it be censored. When Franco saw it; although he didn't personally see anything wrong with the film, he ordered all copies destroyed in the interest of appeasing the church. People who appreciate quality film will be grateful that at least one copy survived the mass destruction by being sent to France.
on 14 February 2013
Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961, 90')
Spanish-Mexican motion picture produced by Mexican Gustavo Alatriste. It is loosely based on Halma, a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós. Written by Julio Alejandro and Luis Buñuel.
Cast: Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey, Margarita Lozano
Editing by Pedro del Rey.
Release date(s) May 1961 (premiere at Cannes, winner of the Palme d'Or), March 1962 (US), October 1963 (Mexico), May 1977 (Spain).
<<<A young novice named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is about to take her vows when her uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), invites her to visit him. He is her only living relative, but she has only met him once and is reluctant to comply. Her Mother Superior pressures her into accepting.
Don Jaime is a recluse, living on a neglected farm with only a couple of servants, Ramona (Margarita Lozano) and Moncho, and Ramona's daughter Rita. When Don Jaime sees his niece, he is struck by her strong resemblance to his deceased wife.
The night before she is to leave, Viridiana, grateful for her uncle's longtime financial support, reluctantly complies with his odd request and puts on his wife's wedding dress. When Ramona informs Viridiana that Don Jaime wants to marry her, she is aghast, and Don Jaime seems to drop the idea. However, Ramona secretly drugs her drink. He carries the unconscious woman to her room with the intention of raping her, but at the last moment decides otherwise.
The next morning, he lies and tells her that he took her virginity, and therefore she cannot go back to her convent. When she is undeterred, he then confesses he lied, leaving her uncertain what happened that night. At the bus stop, the authorities prevent her from leaving. Her uncle has hanged himself, leaving his property to Viridiana and his illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal).
Deeply disturbed, Viridiana decides not to return to the convent. Instead, she collects some beggars and installs them in an outbuilding. She devotes herself to the moral education and feeding of this exceedingly motley group. Disgusted, Moncho departs.
Jorge moves into the house with his girlfriend, Lucia, and starts renovating the rundown place. Lucia senses that he, like his father, lusts after Viridiana, and leaves after a while. Jorge then makes a pass at Ramona, who is not unwilling.
When Viridiana and Jorge leave for a couple of days to take care of some business, the paupers break into the house, initially just planning to look around. But, faced with such bounty, things degenerate into a drunken, riotous party, to the strains of Handel's Messiah. Posing for a photo around the table, the beggars resemble the figures in Da Vinci's Last Supper.
The rightful owners return earlier than expected to find the house a shambles. The miscreants excuse themselves one by one and leave. Jorge confronts a beggar, who pulls a knife on him. When the man starts assaulting Viridiana, Jorge tries to rescue her, but another beggar strikes him in the head with a bottle, knocking him out. Viridiana resists being violated long enough for Jorge to regain consciousness. He has been tied up, but manages to bribe one beggar into killing the would-be rapist. The police then arrive to restore order.
Viridiana is a changed woman. The child Rita burns her crown of thorns. Wearing her hair loosely, Viridiana knocks on Jorge's door, but finds Ramona with Jorge in his bedroom. With Ashley Beaumont singing Shimmy Doll on the record player, Jorge tells Viridiana that they were only playing cards, and urges her to join them, stating "Cousin, I knew you would someday shuffle the cards".>>>From wikipedia.
Buñuel had, up to Viridiana, only made one film in Spain - Las Hurdes: Tierra sin pan (Land without bread), a documentary of 30 minutes, in 1933. By 1961, though still under the fascist regime, Spain had started to prosper from tourism, but international political opinion was still relentlessly opposing the regime. As one of many good will signs, it offered its prominent exilee to make a film. Buñuel, after his surrealist double start in France with Salvador Dalí around 1930, was denounced as an atheist, communist, blasphemer and more (all correct) and had spent his life in the US and later, as a filmmaker, in Mexico.
The scenario passed the Board of Censors, but it <<<rejected the original ending of the film, which depicted Virdiana entering her cousin's room and slowly closing the door behind her. Consequently, a new ending was written which turned out to be more suggestive than the first -- since it implied a ménage à trois between Ramona, Jorge, and Viridiana. After the film was completed and sent by the Spanish cinematographic authority to the Cannes Film Festival, and awarded, the government of Francisco Franco tried unsuccessfully to have the film withdrawn and banned its release in Spain. L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, described the film as "blasphemous."
The film was released there in 1977, after Franco's death, when Buñuel was seventy-seven years old. However, the film was acclaimed at Cannes, winning the Palme d'Or. Buñuel later said that "I didn't deliberately set out to be blasphemous, but then Pope John XXIII is a better judge of such things than I am". wikipedia>>> In the sixties, Buñuel started his famous final series of nine films (with Jean-Claude Carrière as script writer) in France and Spain, including Belle de Jour (1967) with Catherine Deneuve, for which he is best known today.
224 - Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961, 90') -Buñuel's coup - 14/2/2013
This has to be one of the most memorable films ever made.It's a shocking attack on the Catholic Church and Spain.There is a kind of dream-like boldness to a lot of the narrative,an electric passage between images.There is symbolism by the bucket-load,the failed Republic,the wife who died on her wedding day,and modern Spain as an estate run to seed.There are individual images, the bee rescued from a water barrel,a dog running beneath a cart,a cat pouncing on a rat.The theme of the naivety of do-gooding vs the reality of human nature,greed and selfishness.Bunuel connects the audience to more earthy,pragmatic drives throwing off the hypocrisy of organized religion in the process,due to it being out of touch with our needs.The parody of the Last Supper and Pinal's rape by a beggarly Christ are unforgettable.Even more subversive is her new secular role in a menage-a-trois in a final game of cards.An all time masterwork.
on 5 August 2010
If you're not devoutly and happily religious then just watch it, especially for the cracking Last Supper scene, and that it was completely inappropriate for Franco, who first commissioned it. Life painted as messy, ugly and hilariously gauche as it really is.
on 24 October 2009
This is really a treat. A massive attack towards catholic church. Imagine that the same man had to flee to Mexico, where he made his first masterpieces in fourties and fifties. Then he was allowed to come back to his home country and even had a chance to make a movie. And what does this man with no compromises do. He makes Viridiana and seales his destiny in Spain for the rest of his life. It didn't mean anything that Viridiana won in festivals. The rest of his life this great artist continued making great pictures in France. I humbly take my hat off in front of Bunuel. Matti
on 2 November 2013
The 1961 Spanish-Mexican film Viridiana is considered by many to be Luis Buñuel's masterpiece. I would agree though there are other films which I'd put on the same high level such as Nazarín, The Exterminating Angel, Simon of the Desert, and even earlier Mexican classics such as Los Olvidados, Él, El Bruto and the later Belle du Jour and Tristana. Basically speaking, Buñuel was one of the gods of cinema and any of these films would grace a Top 100 list. Viridiana was significant for Buñuel as it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, opening the gate once again to the European art circuit with producer Serge Silberman picking him up and enabling the final seven of Buñuel's films (which now constitute his most famous work) to be made. Most of these were made in France. The only one of these seven to be made in Buñuel's native Spain was Tristana and it is significant that like Viridiana and the earlier Nazarín, it was based on a Julio Alejandro adaptation of a Benito Pérez Galdós novel. Also like Viridiana, it was banned in Spain and considered an insult not just to Catholicism, but to Christianity itself. In addition, both films attack Spain, the Franco administration and the pillars of society that supported it. Particularly galling for Buñuel was the fact that the official Roman Catholic Church was one of these pillars, and Viridiana in particular is the film in which he most obviously voices his distain, the political satire being more acute here than in any other Buñuel film.
On the surface the narrative of Viridiana is very simple. It falls into two halves. The first charts how a young novice named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is persuaded by a senior nun to leave the nunnery to visit her elderly uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) her only surviving relative who has requested his devout niece visit him before he dies. Don Jaime is a recluse living on a run-down country estate and is immediately struck by how Viridiana resembles his late departed wife. He develops a passion for her. He presses her to wear his wife's wedding dress and than asks her to marry him. With the help of the maid, Ramona (Margarita Lozano) he drugs Viridiana to sleep with the intention of raping her. He kisses her breasts but holds back at the last moment. The next morning in an attempt to stop her leaving he lies to her, saying he has deflowered her making it impossible to return to the nunnery. He then confesses he has done no such thing and Viridiana leaves. At the bus stop however, soldiers stop and tell her that Don Jaime has hanged himself, presumably in shame. The second half sees Viridiana having jointly inherited the estate together with Don Jaime's illegitimate son Jorge (Francisco Rabal). She decides to stay and repay the guilt she feels for having led her uncle to suicide. As penance (her cross to bear) she takes in the poor, the crippled and the diseased from the neighborhood, putting them to work on the estate. Her (Christian) program to renovate the house and grounds is contrasted with Jorge's (secular) construction program. One day family business calls the owners away and the estate is left in the hands of the paupers who break into the house and arrange an impromptu Beggar's Banquet which is launched as a parody of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper with Handel's Hallelujah chorus from The Messiah playing on the record player. As the paupers get drunk, things get broken, fights break out and an orgy transpires. The owners return to find the house in ruins and (with The Messiah still blaring out), Jorge is knocked out and Viridiana is raped. Things are halted when Jorge comes to, bribes a pauper to kill the rapist and rescues Viridiana. The final scene of the film sees Viridiana giving up her religious belief by burning her icon of Christ on the cross and the crown of thorns. She then gives herself to Jorge in his bedroom. The Spanish censor didn't like this and had it changed to a card game with Ramona there as a kind of chaperone, but as Buñuel later gleefully pointed out, this alteration is even more risqué, suggesting as it does the defeat of Christian teaching with a concluding menage à trois.
Like Nazarín, Viridiana demonstrates the irrelevance of the teachings of Christ in the modern world. Viridiana is deeply devout and attempts to come to terms with her uncle's death by an act of charity, taking in the paupers. In this way she mirrors Father Nazario's assumption of the Christian qualities (in Nazarín) of love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, non-violence, purity of heart, poverty of spirit, faith and hope. But of course all of this goes for nothing in the real world where people just take and take again. Buñuel demonstrates how Christian charity leads to the creation of false desires which can never be fulfilled, the average man always wanting more. Beyond that while Nazarín took place in a dictatorship of the past (the time of Porfirio Diaz in the period before the Mexican Revolution of 1910), Viridiana takes place in the military dictatorship of the present. Don Jaime's run-down estate is a symbol for Franco's run-down Spain marred in an unearned sense of value and tradition. One of Buñuel's pet hates was the way Spain hadn't progressed beyond the middle ages. He said `[Spain itself] is a closed and isolated society...[where] each day is so like the next that they seem to be ordered for all eternity'. It was Franco's reactionary backward-looking medievalism in its perpetuation of stultifying tradition which comes into sharp focus in this film. This is shown most obviously with the persistence of the social structure of the landed gentry (Don Jaime) hiding out recluse-like in palatial (albeit run-down) surroundings while the servants wait on him. Meanwhile the peasants (represented by the paupers in the film) rot in disease, street crime and general poverty.
The Roman Catholic Church was the main pillar of this medieval society and throughout the film Buñuel parallels the Sacred with the Profane, the marriage between the two being necessary for the State to survive. Don Jaime (the secular State) lives in isolated abandon the same as Viridiana (the sacred Church) lives in isolated seclusion in her nunnery. Don Jaime needs Viridiana to replace his lost wife and tries to force her into marrying him, first by dressing her in his wife's wedding dress and then by drugging her and taking her chastity. When both fail Don Jaime is prepared to sacrifice his life to keep Viridiana in his house. The State is prepared to sacrifice itself to keep the Church wedded to it. Don Jaime's final scene shows him writing a letter (presumably to his lawyer with final instructions for how the estate will be split between Viridiana - the Church - and his bastard son Jorge - the new State -) and is surprising for it's depiction of his happy mood. This is because his character (the State) will live on in the skin of his son with Viridiana (the Church) guaranteed to be there. When Jorge arrives, the parallelism between Church and State continues with Jorge continuing Don Jaime's courtship of Viridiana (the State continuing it's courtship of the Church). Both attempt to renew the estate in their own way - Jorge through building contracts and hard nosed labor and Viridiana through Christian hard labor combined with prayer. One of the most celebrated sequences has construction scenes of hard secular labor intercut with the paupers in the field performing their Angelus (the midday prayer). For Buñuel life in a Fascist society dominated by a union between the Sacred and the Profane cannot lead to progress and all through the film he demonstrates the pointlessness and irrelevance of the attempts of both to effect change. This pointlessness is most effectively rendered in the scene where Jorge sees, feels sorry for and then buys a dog trotting down the road tied to the axel of a cart. If the dog stops trotting it will die and Jorge saves it. Just as he is walking away however, another dog tied to another cart passes in the opposite direction which he either ignores or doesn't see. The point is the State may be able to help one dog, but other dogs will still be left being pulled by other carts. The pointlessness of the Church is quite ruthlessly (and delightfully) sent up by the Beggars' Banquet. The scene is probably the most famous in all of Buñuel's films, brilliantly executed as it is. Viridiana is of course forced to see the irrelevance of her Christian charity and throws her old beliefs in for a secular union with Jorge to the tune of pop star Ashley Beaumont singing Shimmy Doll ("Shake your cares away") on the radio.
In addition to deploying characters and locations as metaphors for what they represent in Franco's Spain, Buñuel also makes hugely effective use of props. Buñuel hated the paraphernalia of religious worship and deliberately parallels Viridiana's fetishization of her icon of Christ on the cross and the crown of thorns with Don Jaime's fetishization of his dead wife's wedding dress, veil, corset and shoes - all of which are parodied by the pauper wearing the items while dancing to the strains of Handel during the orgy. Then there is the use of the skipping rope which shows how a sick society such as Franco's Spain perverts even the most innocent of items. We see the skipping rope at the beginning of the film being used for its designated purpose by Lucia (Ramona's young daughter). Then we next see it hanging Don Jaime from a tree. The girl carries on her skipping after the funeral and is told to stop by the caretaker. The rope is thrown to the ground to be found later by a pauper who uses it as a belt for his trousers. These are the very same trousers that will be lowered when the same pauper rapes Viridiana before being battered to death himself at the end of the film.
Viridiana is a film full of ambiguous symbols and images which one can stay up all night and debate. Buñuel's direction is pointed and beautifully nuanced in its lucid dissection of Spain's social structure and the hypocrisy of official Churchdom. As a diatribe against Franco Spain it's wonderfully effective, the banning of the film there until after the dictator's death in 1977 proving the point. As an anti-Church rant it's also cruelly brilliant in its wicked way. How the director could say so much in a mere 88 minutes is amazing to me. The acting is also superb. Rey, Rabal and especially Pinal play their symbolic roles woundingly well. What truly astonishes is the fact that such a dark, bleak tale can be so full of life and so funny. Nowhere else in the Buñuel canon is the director's brutally sardonic wit so richly in evidence. The fact that he knew Franco's invitation to make a film in Spain would only be a one-off deal meant he could really stick the knife in and run, making sure the final cut was sent back to Mexico before it could be seized. The fact that the Franco administration missed the film's blistering attack on Spain, even allowing the film to be sent to Cannes (where it won the main prize!) must have tickled Buñuel no end. It really is an extraordinary film in almost every way and needs to be seen by every film lover. This Arrow DVD transfer is excellent, both sound and picture ideally sharp showing off José Fernández Aguayo's camerawork to perfection. I suppose I could carp at the lack of any extras - an intelligent commentary would be fascinating in sifting through the various meanings embedded within Buñuel's wicked tale. On the other hand, it is very cheap, a mandatory purchase for anyone interested in great cinema.
While `Viridiana' contains some well known aspects of L. Buñuel's movies, like fetishism or voyeurism, its main target is, like in `L'Age D'Or', religion and more particularly Catholicism with its gospel of pity and altruism. This gospel is personified in an aspirant-nun, played sublimely by the Mexican actress Silvia Pinal. But, faced with utterly disgraceful behavior on the part of the poor people she wanted to help, she becomes on the tones of Haendel's music an anti-Messiah.
For the Catholic Church this movie is fundamentally a blasphemy, symbolized by its hellish parody of the Last Supper (the picture by Leonardo Da Vinci) with the apostles painted as vile and vicious paupers and beggars.
Another of L. Buñuel's more controversial viewpoints is his misogyny expressed by Don Jaime's illegitimate son, Jorge: `all cats are grey at night'.
With a formidable casting, Silvia Pinal being the jewel of the team, this movie didn't lose even a shadow of its subversive bite at Christian morality.
A must see for all lovers of world cinema.
With the arrival of rock and roll music a new era was finally ushered in and this film bridges the shift from medieval religious piety to the body rubbing bacchanal of the 1950's/60's which was about to arrive through the front door. As such Bunuel acts as the MC in ushering in the new era in, with a big brass loud hailer.
At the beginning we see Sylvia looking a little above average in the looks department for a nun about to take her vows, rigid to the point of entering a cryogenic period before death given dispensation to meet the lewd uncle. Incestual desire pawing from his hands the gentleman has feigned illness to lure his niece to his bed. However the film is all about conscience and desire, ricocheting throughout its structure. Meanwhile we have asides to the nature of politics and religion, delivered in such a soft underwhelming depiction you will hardly notice.
The uncle is rich but lonely, locked away from love, his only solace is memories of his beloved. Meanwhile the world decays around him. So after he moves on we see Viridiana move away from frigidity to earnest religious support of the poor. However the poor have their own desires and needs. Locked out of the system of manners, suddenly allowing them access, hardly turns them into "better people" through prayer and piety. She does try to tap into their skill base, but the problems arise when she has to go away. Meanwhile the son of the uncle is also apportioned part of the estate and both he and Viridiana are tasked to run it together. He is the lothario and she is the ice maiden, the one melts the other and in the end a halting carnality is ushered into the final frame.
The film works on suggestion, framing quality, vision and story. Not a film which wastes an hour plus, as it contains all the seeds of a good book wrapped up in film. Bunuel obviously was aiming beyond the normal film narrative and this succeeds. Sure it has blasphemy within it, but increasingly this takes second place as the world becomes more secular, what stands out is the focus on money, power, loneliness, marginalisation and how these are all bridged.
Viridiana has the reputation for being a blasphemous film which in reality is unfounded. Bunuel never felt the film was intentionally blasphemous. The film is however critical of what appears the limited scope of charity or doing good which will ultimately be unable to affect much change to the world at large. Luis Bunuel who had been in exile in Mexico was invited back to Spain by Franco to make a film to which Luis Bunuel agreed and made Viridiana in a way ridiculing or critising the 'charity' afforded him. Bunuel was astute enough to be aware of the futility of his own criticism. In the film Jorge criticises Viridiana attempts while he fails to notice all the other dogs in need of rescuing too. He is saying that while Viridiana or the Church or Governments may have the best intentions they are inevitably doomed to failure because life and the world is ultimately chaotic. Bunuel's use of metaphor in many scenes as a narrative technique is an example of his excellent subtle ability which is not always that evident in his later films.
Viridiana was submitted to the Canne Film Festival where it won the Palm D'Or before being banned in Spain on grounds of blasphemy.
This 1961 film co-written and directed by (then) exiled Spanish film-maker Luis Bunuel is one of the man’s most scathingly satirical (though often subtly so) and visually innovative (and indeed beautiful). As was the man’s wont, in Viridiana, Bunuel again pushes (hard) against the boundaries of what would be acceptable censor-wise, particularly in relation to religious and sexual themes and symbolism as he tells his story of the fall from grace of Silvia Pinal’s would-be (eponymous) nun and, unsurprisingly, his film was initially banned in Spain and Italy. Viridiana was, in fact, the first film in a trilogy that Bunuel made with producer Gustavo Alatriste and actress Pinal (Alatriste’s wife) and was followed by The Exterminating Angel and Simon Of The Desert.
Bunuel’s film can be regarded as something of a 'film of two halves’ – the first in which our title character, just prior to her taking her vows, is persuaded by her Mother Superior to pay an overdue visit to her estranged uncle (and benefactor), a superb Fernando Rey’s repressed and manipulative Don Jaime, and the second (following the first part’s 'shocking’ denouement) in which the guilt-ridden, compassionate Viridiana ('She’s a bit simple’) attempts to achieve some form of redemption by 'adopting’ a raggle-taggle group of disadvantaged (cripples, tramps, etc). And, although Bunuel’s film is throughout replete with acute satire and innovative visual imagery, I have a slight preference for its first half with its subtle depiction of Don Jaime’s seduction and entrapment attempts, all depicted via José Aguayo’s stunning black-and-white (interior) cinematography.
Of course, the director again hits the mark with some brilliant touches of cinematic detail and symbolism – from the risqué suggestiveness of Viridiana’s cow-milking attempts or the surreptitious peeping of Margarita Lozano’s maid Ramona and her daughter Teresa Rabal’s Rita through to the macabre depiction (and portent) of Rita’s skipping rope. Not to miss out, Bunuel’s 'dream obsession’ is also to the fore as Rita talks of her 'black bull nightmare’. Once (for the film’s second half) Viridiana has retreated to her persona of shy, 'covered-up’ good Samaritan (though briefly tempted by Don Jaime’s son, Francisco Rabal’s self important 'moderniser’, Jorge), Bunuel shifts the focus to more boisterous black comedy as José Calvo’s excellent blind man, Dom Amalio, and his cohorts serve to disrupt the penitent one’s adopted home. Here, Bunuel’s message of 'humanity reverting to type’ (and, in particular, beyond the control of any 'higher power’) is less subtle, but no less engaging, as he sets up one of his (later trademark) ensemble dinner scenes, this one being totally anarchic but still having time for a nice 'Last Supper’ profile shot of Don Amalio holding court. Indeed, even though Bunuel’s 'full circle denouement’ is a little abrupt (as Handel is replaced by 'pop music’ and Viridiana’s blonde beauty is revealed in all its glory) it still provides a powerful conclusion to Bunuel’s innovative satire.