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One of Luis Bunuel's most free-form and purely Surrealist films, consisting of a series of only vaguely related episodes - most famously, the dinner party scene where people sit on ... See full summary »
Viridiana, a young novice about to take her final vows as a nun, accedes to a request from her widowed uncle to visit him. Moved purely by a sense of obligation, she does so. Her uncle is moved by her resemblance to his late wife to attempt to seduce Viridiana, and tragedy ensues. In the aftermath, Viridiana tries to assuage her guilt by creating a haven for the destitute folk who live around her uncle's estate. But from these good intentions, too, comes little good. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Buñuels superb, subversive denial of religious ethics
Few film directors have worked with the sheer power and subversiveness that Spanish-born Luis Buñuel have. "Viridiana" is one of the best examples of the exiled Spaniard's feelings towards religious faith and its virtues- or his strong denial of religion as a virtue.
Buñuel started out as a Surrealist, and although he left the Surrealist Circle of Paris lead by André Breton, he always kept elements of Surrealism in his work, to the bitter end. So too in "Viridiana", where dreams play a small, but important part of the narrative, dreams being the Surrealists' main theme as a way of discovering repressed sexuality and aggression. Viridiana is a young nun who is, on the grounds of showing human compassion, talked into visiting her uncle Don Jaime, who is ill. Don Jaime, played by Buñuel regular Fernando Rey, is caring, but perverse. He falls in love with his niece, and does everything with the help of his maid, to keep Viridiana from parting to the convent, including lying to her and seducing her while she is trainquilized.
I am not going to give away all the events of the film, but the corruption of humanity and Christianity are soon evident, as Viridiana tries to help poor beggars and give them a worthy life. Her attempts at Christian charity are only met with self-pity and egocentricity, as the beggars go on a rampage reminiscient of the last supper of Jesus christ and his disciples. Violence, murder, gluttony and rape are all included to make a clear picture of the way the beggars have lost their human virtues to the hardship of poverty. We see the events through Viridiana's eyes, and everything she goes through suggests a broken belief in the goodness of both human beings and the faith she kept for so long.
A masterpiece in revolutionary cinema, this film won the Palm d' Or at Cannes in 1961, and the Spanish Board of Film were all fired afterwards, as Franco's regime could not quite swallow that "Viridiana" was the official Spanish contribution to the Festival.
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