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Reviews & Ratings for
Viridiana More at IMDbPro »

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"That Obscure Object of Desire meets Nazarin"

Author: Galina from Virginia, USA
20 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The controversial satire was banned by the Spanish government for obscenity and blasphemy after it had received the Golden Palm at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. Viridiana is a young nun (Mexican actress Silvia Penal) who is assigned by her mother superior to visit her widowed uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) on his farm just before taking her final vows. Viridiana reluctantly agrees to meet with her uncle whom she never knew but who has supported her financially all these years. Don Jaime is obsessed by her cool virginal blond beauty and he sees her as reincarnation of his bride who died thirty years ago on their wedding night. Jaime begs Viridaina to don her aunt's wedding dress after which he drugs her with the intention to corrupt her. What Don Jaime does, is unspeakable. He represents in the film the decadent old aristocracy but nothing is that simple and obvious in Bunuel's films. Bunuel gives some of his own sexual fantasies, fetishes, and dreams that he freely admits to Don Jaime thus making him more human. Viridiana winds up as a farm owner along with her uncle's illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal, humble and spiritual Nazarin of "Nazarin" here plays absolutely different man). Viridiana, following the great traditions of mad Spaniards, originated by Cervantes and continued by Nazarin, takes seriously great ideas and tries to live accordingly when she attempts to make the farm a heaven for local homeless beggars. They pay her back for her kindness and care by throwing the wild party inside the house during her absence that culminates in making the funniest life caricature of Da Vinci's "the Last Supper" I've ever seen and by attempting to rape her when she comes back earlier than expected. Viridiana is a woman of virtue but all her good intentions lead nowhere. I am not surprised that the film was banned and all copies were ordered to be destroyed (Silvia Penal in her interview recalls the dramatic story of two copies of the film that were saved and buried, so they could wait for the better times), I am surprised how Bunuel was able to make this super dark dramedy about the inability of the Catholic Church to deal with the realities of the world at all in his native Spain when Franco was still in power.

Technically, Viridiana is a perfect film, odd and enigmatic behind the seeming simplicity. It's power lays not in the set decorations, stunning locations or the colorful costumes but in a way people interact. When asked what were his ideas behind his films, Bunuel answered, "I have no ideas, it is all instinct".

It took 17 years to bring "Viridiana" home to Spain where it was first shown at the theaters in 1977. It took another 29 years to transfer it to Criterion DVD. Now it is available with several interesting bonus features that include interview with Silvia Penal from 2006, an interview with Richard Norton, the Cineaste editor and the best one, the parts of the film about Bunuel that was made back in 60th and the man in the documentary is as enigmatic, odd, charming, brilliant, and sinister as his films are.

Highly recommended.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

One of Bunuel's masterpieces.

Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia.
7 January 2002

Beautiful and devout Viridiana (Silvia Pinal in an impressive performance) is about to take her final vows as a nun, and enter a convent. At the urging of her Mother Superior she takes a short break to visit her estranged Uncle and benefactor Don Jaime (Bunuel regular, the always wonderful Fernando Rey). Reluctantly she does so thinking it will be the last time she sees him before devoting her life to God. Don Jaime, a complex man, has other plans for Viridiana - he wants to take her as his wife. What follows is unpredictable, fascinating and an almost perfect piece of film making. Highly controversial in its day, and accused of blasphemy, it may not be as shocking to our cynical, secular eyes, but it still packs a punch, and is highly recommended. One of Luis Bunuel's greatest achievements.

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13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

not completely artistically free, but one of Buñuel's best and most sincere

Author: rogierr from Amsterdam, Netherlands
7 August 2001

Buñuel emphasizes again that the rich take their perspective for granted and the poor initially literally don't know how to handle the opportunities thrown at their feet, and who can blame them? The rich in this film know how to control their subversive tendencies, because they are taught how to handle their position, their money and simply their manners. The poor and disabled are naively given opportunities and gradually make an unbelievable mess of it, without ever considering the (moral) implications of their actions. Viridiana is the kind soul who makes the naive mistakes, like helping the beggars in the wrong way.

Although this is the great Fernando Rey's (French Connection, Cet obscur objet du désir, and here speaking Spanish) first and shortest collaboration with Buñuel, it must be his most convincing performance. His character Don Jaime morally blackmails Viridiana accompanied by psalms. This delicately illustrates Buñuel's loathing of churches and convents (where Viridiana lived) that cannot prevent people from their sexual desires. A contrast is made with the beggars later in the film, who listen to Händel, Beethoven and Mozart without properly hearing what it is, but have fun and unfortunately take advantage of their newly acquired personal wealth.

The surrealism and magic realism will be presented again by Buñuel in later years (after 1966, and also in Ángel exterminador, 1962), but this film is one of Buñuel's subtlest and best acted and has a clear message without being superficial or pedantic. To what extent it is a parody on The Last Supper I don't know and also I can't figure out what this somnambulism (also in Tristana '70) should mean in religious terms. But Buñuel and cinematographer Jose F. Aguayo (also Tristana) delivered a worthy film that may be Buñuel's least outrageous but most realistic and aesthetically perfected film. 'Journal d'une femme de chambre' (Buñuel, 1964) is one film that comes close to that. Also, 'Charme discret de la bourgeoisie' and 'Ángel exterminador' seem to deal with a Last Supper in their own brilliant way.


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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece that remains unsurpassed to this day

Author: Martin Bradley ( from Derry, Ireland
4 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Long exiled from his native Spain, Luis Bunuel was meant to return in triumph and create his masterpiece, which is precisely what he did though his triumph was short-lived and his masterpiece, "Viridiana", quite simply one of the greatest works of art in any medium, proved to be a source of scandal to Franco, his regime and the Vatican. What Bunuel did was to bite the hand that fed him all the way to the shoulder blade. "Viridiana" is virulently anti-Catholic, some felt to the point of blasphemy and it's imagery proved shocking way beyond the point of forgiveness. (Like all great works of art the film still shocks today, so forceful is Bunuel's message).

The storyline is simplicity itself. A young novice is asked by her uncle to visit him at his château before taking her final vows and entering the convent. Consumed by lust at her resemblance to his late wife he drugs her with the intention of raping her but then can't go through with it. Nevertheless, he tells her that he did and subsequently hangs himself. Feeling she has been violated, the novice renounces her vows but moves into her uncle's house determined to devote her life to helping the poor and flagellating herself to atone for what she sees as her sins. The film culminates in one of the most extraordinary sequences in all of cinema as the beggars she has taken in pillage the house and finally rape her in a mock re-enactment of Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' to the strains of the Alleluia Chorus.

All of this, of course, proved much too much for the conservative, staunchly Catholic regime who promptly had the film banned and had they had their way would have had all prints destroyed. Whether or not they recognized it as a devastating satire of Swiftian proportions, viciously barbed and often very funny, is debatable. (Facists are conspicuous by their lack of a sense of humour). Regardless, it sealed Bunuel's fate in Spain for the rest of Franco's reign and marked the beginning of one of his most productive periods though he was never again to reach the inspired heights he reached here. I doubt if any film made since has surpassed it.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Some thoughts on Mulvey in a Buñuelian context... by the way, Viridiana is a masterpiece

Author: JoeMonco from United States
19 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In many ways, Buñuel's nontraditional cinema adheres to Mulvey's theory of the male gaze and the female image. However, one must also consider that Buñuel does not seem to be subconsciously adhering to this traditional practice, but instead building sequences (and later in his career, entire films) upon this idea. In Un Chien Andalou, the female character is at one point treated as an object of lust by the cyclist. In Los Olvidados, Jaibo takes the same stance concerning Pedro's mother– as does Viridiana's uncle toward Viridiana in Viridiana, most of the male characters in Diary of a Chambermaid toward Celestine, and all of That Obscure Object of Desire chronicles Mathieu's search to attain his unattainable "object of desire," Conchita. Female characters are often put on display, but not for the same purposes as, for example, Mulvey's "performing woman." Buñuel's lens is intrusive and voyeuristic (but is so often placed their under the guise of a voyeuristic character): the milk dripped on Meche's legs (seen by Jaibo), the drugged Viridiana taken advantage of by Don Jaime (observed by the maid's daughter), and several scenes in That Obscure Object of Desire (which, interestingly enough focuses more on Mathieu, the voyeur, than what he is seeing). In terms of how Buñuelian male characters exercise their pleasure phallically, penetratively, and sadistically, many Sade-like situations are set up in his early films: the forced fondling in Un Chien Andalou, Don Jaime's (possible) rape of the drugged Viridiana, and L'Age d'Or's climax plays out Sade's 120 Days of Sodom with Christ as the head of the libertines. In a way, Buñuel adhered to these traditional gender depictions, but he did it in such a self-reflexive and shockingly novel way, that instead of merely presenting female images for a voyeuristic audience, he makes a commentary on these images and the nature of voyeurism itself– forcing us to confront it, rather than simply watching.

Tying into these ideas is psychoanalytic film theory– Mulvey claims that films are linked to the perspective and ideology of the director. In terms of Buñuel, one cannot really say that his films exemplify this model, as practically everything in Buñuel's films is subversive. One cannot say that Buñuel's ideologies are inherently linked to what the camera shows us, as contradictions abound: in Los Olvidados and Land Without Bread, questions are raised, but no definitive answers given. In films like Viridiana and Diary of a Chambermaid, society is seemingly condemned. L'Age d'Or and The Phantom of Liberty include social commentaries, but are for the most part injected with surrealistic silliness. How can we say that Buñuel's films are intrinsically linked to Buñuel's ideology? We cannot, therefore we must view Buñuel as a subversive innovator, one who may have adhered to certain cinematic norms, but twisted others in directions that could not be any further from the "status quo."

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Relentless criticism to ingratitude and selfishness realized by the maestro Buñuel

Author: ma-cortes
23 January 2010

This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking film initially banned in Spain and completely denounced by the Vatican . Although it was voted best Spanish film by professionals and critics in 1996 Spanish cinema centenary . It deals with the novice Angelic Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) who visits his uncle Jaime (Fernando Rey) in the mansion prior to taking her religious vows . Jaime is stunned by her remarkable resemblance to deceased spouse who passes away on their wedding night . Later on , there appears his nephew (Francisco Rabal). Meanwhile Viridiana attempts to help some local beggars .

This prohibited movie is widely considered a Luis Buñuel's masterpiece . It's a parable based on a Benito Perez Galdos' novel titled Halma concerning about a young nun full of illusions and kindness along with some tattered beggars . It is packed with some humor , hilarious situations , brooding drama , corruption and criticism to Catholic Church and useless altruism . The original ending of the film showed Viridiana knocking on her cousin's door, entering, and the door closing slowly behind her , this version was rejected by Spanish censors . After years of living in Mexico, Luis Buñuel was persuaded to make his first film in his native Spain since 1936 by the vanguard of young contemporary Spanish film-makers who admired his work . Buñuel returning his native country , Spain , by making 'Viridiana' but this film was prohibited on the grounds of blasphemy , then Buñuel with his screenwriter Julio Alejandro go back Mexico where realizes in low budget 'Simon of the desert' and also produced by Gustavo Alatriste . 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. Splendid main cast gives superb acting as Fernando Rey , Francisco Rabal and Silvia Pinal as idealist ascetic ex-nun . Large secondary cast formed by ragged beggars as Lola Gaos , Jose Calvo , Jose Luis Martin , Joaquin Roa, and Maria Isbert ,daughter of the great Jose Isbert . It appears uncredited as a little girl Teresa Rabal , Francisco Rabal's daughter . Good and atmospheric cinematography by excellent cameraman Jose F. Aguayo . Religious and classic music score including ¨Haendel's Messiah¨ and the ethereal strains of Alelluya . The picture was originally realized by 'the maestro of Calanda' , Luis Buñuel's location of birth , and was immediately banned . Despite the government's massive efforts to confiscate all copies , some of them were exhibited and the movie won deservedly the Palme dÓr at the Cannes Film Festival . Nice strange story for Luis Buñuel aficionados , being hauled by some reviewers as one of his best films ever made . Rating : Above average, worthwhile watching.

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9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A very moral movie...

Author: SixtusXLIV from Portugal
11 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are, basically, two kinds of morals. Historically, the first kind is the one "imposed from above" by some God, King or Imperator. It was a necessity of agrarian civilizations. The same people had to live together and rules were needed.. Morals tended to be enforced by a "Sacerdotal class". Moral became synonym or "Religion"... The Catholic Church inherited this from the Jews, who inherited it from the Egyptians and Caldeans.

The other is "consensus morals". It was invented by the Greeks and it is the source of modern morals (if such thing exists, today) and democracy.

Viridiana is one of the strange Bunuel's film, from this point of view. She was living happily in the convent, when her Mother Superior, sends her "into the world" for a time. She his raped by her tutor or uncle , who commits suicide..

Afterwards, she transforms the family property into an "Hotel for the poor". One day that she has to leave, those poor set up a party.

They,surprisingly, show good taste (French linen table cover, roast Lamb, Caramel Custard, Haendel's Messiah for music). There is also some bad behavior from a blind fellow and an attempt at rape!!.

When the "Law and Order" comes, cousin Jorge, the new heir to the estate (played by Francisco Rabal) finds nothing better to do, for the moment, than play "Tute" with is servant Ramona and Viridiana has no choice, but to join. The music is some stupid modern song of the sixties (in English)... For those interested, "Tute" in Spanish means more than just a card game...

She can no longer be a servant of Religion, not even a help to the poor. She will be possessed by her cousin and will work the land (these are Bunuel's words in a documentary, not my invention). She will be a new slave of the modern world..

Gracias por nos haver advertido, Dom Luis...

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

An Utterly Graceful Experience, and an Invaluable Intellectual Piece of Work

Author: jzappa from Cincinnati, OH, United States
21 November 2010

Buñuel didn't intend Viridiana to be sacrilegious. Just an uncompromising view of a world that can't be saved. The film's quite unmistakably partitioned into two halves. The first half begins with the eponymous young woman, played by the stunningly beautiful young Silvia Pinal with a marble sheen of purity and innocence, and the depth of an all-too-relatable psychosomatic susceptibility to all that act upon her, such as her unpredictable uncle played with off-putting sincerity by Fernando Rey, whose tragic self-delusion causes him to fetishistically associate Viridiana with his late wife. Much like The Virgin Spring, another religiously themed 1961 masterpiece, Viridiana's journey is portrayed so serenely, sensually and gracefully that when we face incredibly powerful, uncomfortable or enigmatic moments, we haven't even seen them coming, and when we have, they've already pounced on us. With every quality of every production specialty, the effect is sheer simplicity, no instability despite whatever viciousness or emotional tremors, making them all that much more inherently poignant.

That's vital to its thematic consistency as well as its sensory impact. There is a scene near the convergence of the two "acts" that involves an intended rape foiled by guilt, a tormented attempt at blackmail that results in a muddle of confessions and guilt-ridden fabrications, and ultimately, an offense taken so deeply that even a figure of such pious naivete and self-punishing reverence cannot grant forgiveness. Offense and forgiveness seem to be the film's central preoccupation, embodied by well-intentioned people, ill-equipped for life. Throughout the second half, Viridiana instigates goings-on brought about by her feeling of guilt, one detached from any methodological or ceremonial sense.

This half explores Bunuel's commitment to change as Viridiana gathers a group of local vagabonds to care for and shelter on the uncle's estate: a daunting blind man, a scuttling jester, a woman with two babies, a pregnant woman, a gimp, a prominent-seeming old guy from another sort of movie, a singer, a dwarf, and a leper. The drifters epitomize an array of human potential that Buñuel wants neither to reject nor commemorate, but to challenge, which is why the film, despite the dismay of several of its moments and the devastating chaos of its later scenes, is invigorating instead of just disheartened or dismal. What we are seeing is both horrible and droll, and we're the better for not having turned away.

The film's thoughtful and measured. It's gracefully shot; each image communicating something distinct and particular, which is to be anticipated from an alleged fetishist. It makes no patent, clear-cut assertion, but rather delivers Buñuel's view that our animal natures are invariably waiting to spring. The lecherous uncle is not portrayed as a horrible man as much as a forlorn and despondent one, who longs to indulge a sin but lacks the required impropriety. Nor is the eponymous nun's cousin a lecher, nor is she a fallen women, and the beggars merely act as they've been acclimatized by the social order.

Left with the estate to themselves for a day, the tramps search the main house, eyeball the paintings, the linen, the silver, and opt to have a banquet. In a magnificently cynical cut, Buñuel goes right from an early moment of this searching to a late point of the feast: the main course demolished, bottles everywhere, and everyone inebriated. One of the babies cries, two women have an atrocious wrestle, the leper puts on Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," to which a succession of small subsequent actions lead to utter chaos. The screenplay, possibly suggesting the sensation instead of the reality, mentions "carnage" and an "absurd orgy." In the film's most notorious moment, everyone assembles along one side of the table for a "photograph" of a scene that unmistakably mimics The Last Supper.

It's very likely that Bunuel knew more about irreverence than the pope did. But the sacrilege is not hostile to God and Jesus. It's against the trust in improvement, at least in its traditional implications, whether in the guise of a character's ideas for civilizing the estate or of Viridiana's mission to enrich the vagabonds' lives. The beggars are not vile or evil. They're the disorder of life itself, a keepsake that bliss, curiosity and desire can at any time resort to devastation and brutality. This is not an case against those unquestionably positive things, or an demand for rules and doctrine. It's a portrait of a civilization that doesn't value its own needs. Buñuel's cynicism and indignation embroil the miniaturization of our idea of change and improvement, our limited efforts to reach it through reasonable or didactic preparation, and our eager contempt for the disorderly influences without which no civilization would be human.

To me, the most special and important scene in this film is not entrenched in religious controversy but in the hopelessness of existence, and it encapsulates Buñuel's view of life: It's the scene with the dog tied to moving carts by ropes that'd choke it if it stops hurrying. Viridiana's cousin buys it to save it from its running distress, yet he doesn't see, as he turns away, another cart with another bound dog coming the other way. This is the man who's about to disparage Viridiana for her endeavors at generosity. A film like this is invigorating. It's helmed by a sharp, idiosyncratic brain. It's not another reductive rendering of reassuring feel-good fabrications. All the time, there's another cart and another dog bound to it.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

they're creepy and they're kooky

Author: tsf-1962 from United States
22 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's no wonder that Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel made most of his films and Mexico and France; they were probably the only countries at the time tolerant enough for his brand of weirdness. Seeing his movies you see where the producers of "The Addams Family" got their inspiration; like his compatriot Goya Bunuel has a taste for Gothic horror and the kind of monsters the sleep of reason produces. "Viridiana" was made in Spain with Mexican money and a Mexican star (Sylvia Pinal). Pinal plays an innocent novice who returns home before taking her final vows. Unfortunately she attracts the unwanted attention of her creepy uncle ("The French Connection"'s Fernando Rey, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Gomez Addams). When she resists his advances, he hangs himself. Viridiana now thinks she can never be a nun, so she opens a homeless shelter instead. Unfortunately, the beggars and tramps she brings in are ungrateful scum who trash the place and she has to call the National Guard on them. Realizing the pointlessness of doing good in a world full of evil, Viridiana gives in to the sexual advances of her playboy cousin. The climax of this film is the blasphemous, obscene, but undeniably funny homage to Leonardo's "Last Supper" that the late Robert Altman ripped off in the movie "M*A*S*H." Bunuel, a self-professed Marxist, hated the rich, but judging from this movie he didn't love the poor very much either. One gets the impression that he hated people in general. Then there's Bunuel's trademark anti-Christian message. You have to wonder what hold the Catholic Church had on Bunuel for him to feel the need to attack it so stridently in so many films; surely Christianity must have had some attraction for him to hate it so much. Still, in spite of its twisted ideological perspective, this is an immensely entertaining film. Bunuel was perhaps the cinematic equivalent of Jonathan Swift, except he didn't love individuals.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: sumantra roy from India
12 July 2013

Viridiana, one of the most contentious and thought provoking films of Luis Bunuel, earned him Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Viridiana is a sacrilegious outburst against Catholicism as well as against the Spanish bourgeoisie; it is an indictment of organized religion. The Spanish censors changed the ending of the film (instead of the heroine going to her cousin's bedroom, the censored version show her playing cards with him), still Viridiana remained banned in Spain and later on in Italy through the efforts of the Vatican.

In this film, Viridiana, a young and beautiful nun (about to be inducted as one) is big way bitten by reality two times, both of which change her decision making and outlook completely. Persuaded by Mother superior, she visits her uncle Don Jaime, in his country estate for a few days. Don Jaime had a different project attached with it. He wants Viridiana to stay in his country estate for ever, as a wife. When Viridiana first time comes to know about this, she seems stunned and terribly upset (first reality bite). She decides to leave. A desperate Don Jaime with the help of his obedient servant Ramona, drug Viridiana's coffee. Don Jaime kisses Viridiana when she lay unconscious and tells her next day that he has had intercourse, hoping that this would force Viridiana to stay with him. But it doesn't stop her. She leaves anyway. Being ashamed, Don hangs himself. Viridiana comes back to the estate. She learns that she has inherited the farm house and Jorge, Don's son, inherited the main.

Viridiana decides not to go back to the church. Instead, she takes up the project of really helping out the poor and the cripples by providing them food and shelter. She brings them to the farm house. The beggars turn out to be an unpleasant and evil lot who take advantage of her virtuousness and pay back her Christian unselfish charity with ingratitude. One of them even tries to rape her (second reality bite). In the end Viridiana leaves her ambitious journey of sainthood. According to Bunuel, it is better off returning to the secular world as a disgraced woman than living a lie as a hypocritical Christian who is disconnected from the masses. Well, Viridiana ends connected, doesn't she?

Viridiana has striking similarities with films like Nazarin and Tristana, but I think in Viridiana, Bunuel was wittier, sharper and definitely most uncompromising. One can talk about several things. Think how he establishes Don Jaime's leg fetish for example, or when the little girl first time touches the thorn crown, she gets hurt. This thorn crown as well as nails and the cross are some of the things that Viridiana carries with herself, she worships them. I mean, I have seen them before, but after seeing Viridiana I realized that these fetish objects are dangerous things to carry also. Think about the famous dinner sequence, when one women beggar opens her skirt to take their group photograph. In this sequence, Bunuel caricatures both The Last Supper and The Hallelujah Chorus, and then follows the attempt to rape, which results in Viridiana's complete loss of faith. Viridiana is probably the most blasphemous of all Bunuel films.

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