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Carl Theodor Dreyer
Emil Hass Christensen,
Preben Lerdorff Rye
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>
The script was initially approved by the Spanish authorities with a few minor changes. They had no opportunity to view the finished film until it played at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d'Or. Nevertheless they were sufficiently horrified by what they saw to ban the film. See more »
Buñuel's case study on bourgeoisie plight and its underlining cause - having been conditioned to live under the influence of false and misconstrued religious beliefs
Regardless of the inhibitions that it may engender, it's always a matter of great cachet and honor to review the work of a virtuoso like Luis Buñuel. Calling Buñuel merely a movie-maker would not only be an understatement but also an invidious remark. Buñuel was a pioneer in every sense of the word and his works avant garde and highly influential. He is regarded as the father of surrealism in cinema and his predilection for the morbid and the obscure had earned him the tag of a 'fetishist'. Buñuel's directorial debut, Un Chien Andalou, a prototypical work on Surrealism, is a living example of Buñuel's vision and imaginative genius as a movie-maker and more importantly as a student of cinema.
Buñuel was averse to explaining or promoting his work and ironically his surrealist works are so personal, distinctive and elaborative in style and manner that no one but Buñuel was worthy of judging or explaining them. Fortunately for me the first Buñuel movie that I have ventured to review does not deal with surrealism. Viridinia is a story of a young nun whose inexorable resolve for redemption ironically takes her to the brink of moral corruption. Viridinia revolves around bourgeois (middle class) modus vivendi and deals with controversial themes of gluttony, blasphemy and adultery which have been an integral part of Buñuelesque oeuvre. Buñuel was a staunch maverick and fittingly his iconoclastic works relentlessly flouted the bourgeois morals and the very root cause of bourgeoisie plight - the conservatism and hypocrisy camouflaged in the preaching of Catholicism and Christianity. Viridiana not only stands equal to the task of mocking organized religion and hypocrisies associated with it but just like other Buñuel works also manages to bring in a humanistic element with a somber yet sensual touch. The questions that Buñuel manages to pose through Viridiana are so straight and naked that even a saint of divine proportions, or a champion of human rights will not only look askance in want of candor but will also be forced to squeal in ghastly terror while trying to answer them. Such was the impact of Viridiana on the The Roman Catholic Church that the Vatican's official newspaper published an article calling Viridiana an insult to Catholicism and Christianity. The movie was banned in Spain and all its prints were destroyed as per the orders of the Spanish autocrat, Francisco Franco. These exaggerated responses were clearly not responsive of the subject material that Viridiana showcased but were the mere consequences of the questions it posed and the answers that it demanded.
Viridiana is a young nun on the verge of taking her final vows. She is asked by her Mother Superior to pay a visit to her estranged uncle, Don Jaime, who has repeatedly expressed his keenness to meet Viridiana. She remembers that her uncle was never there for her whenever she had needed his support. Despite the absence of an emotional urge, she decides to pay him a visit simply out of courtesy. Don Jamie is a recluse rotting in the abject solitude of widowhood, which is making him more vulnerable and desperate with each passing day. Upon meeting his nubile niece, he notices a striking resemblance to his deceased wife. This ray of hope reinvigorates a new sense of purpose in his life as he decides to put forth a marriage proposal in front of Viridiana. He implores her to wear his wife's wedding dress which she reluctantly obliges. When his maid, Ramona informs Viridiana of his intent to marry her, she is appalled, and Don Jaime appears to have dropped the idea. However, Ramona secretly drugs Viridiana drink and Don Jamie carries the unconscious Viridiana to her room with the intention of raping her, but falls short of doing the ignominious. The next morning, he bluffs that he has made her his, and hence she is no longer pure enough to return to the convent. Seeing her undeterred, he concedes the truth, but fails in convincing her fully. Viridiana immediately leaves for the convent but at the bus stop the authorities reveal her that Don Jamie has committed suicide and has left his entire property to her and his illegitimate son, Jorge. Deeply disturbed, Viridiana decides not to return to the convent. Instead, as an act of penance, she brings home an assemblage of beggars and devotes herself to the moral education and feeding of this underprivileged lot. The things become a bit more complicated on the arrival of Jorge who shows a strong inclination for Viridiana. What ensues is a series of amazingly bizarre yet poetic sequences which can best be cherished through viewing rather than description. The penultimate scene depicts the beggars posing for a photo sans camera around the table in which they seem to collectively resemble the figures in Da Vinci's Last Supper; a chair substitutes for the door which now cuts into the fresco, and removes Christ's feet. This scene, in particular, earned the film the Vatican's opprobrium. The controversial finale adds a completely different dimension to Viridiana elevating it to new levels of cognitive interpretation.
In a nutshell, Viridiana is a truly fascinating cinematic experience catapulted to new heights of magnificence by Buñuel's mastery and his unflinching ability to depict the sad and abysmal reality of living under the influence of false and misconstrued religious tenets. Viridiana along with The Diary of a Chamber Maid (1964) are great means of acquainting oneself with Buñuel's oeuvre and can serve as an excellent mock exercise to prepare oneself before exploring Buñuel's exceedingly challenging surrealistic works. 10/10
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