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Viridiana

Viridiana poster
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Produced by Gustavo Alatriste
Written by Julio Alejandro
Luis Buñuel
Starring Silvia Pinal
Francisco Rabal
Fernando Rey
Margarita Lozano
Editing by Pedro del Rey
Distributed by Films Sans Frontières
Release date(s) May 1961 (premiere at Cannes)
19 March 1962 (U.S.)
10 October 1963 (Mexico)
23 May 1977 (Spain)
Running time 90 min.
Language Spanish

Viridiana (Latin for green) is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican coproduction, directed by Luis Buñuel and produced in Spain by Mexican Gustavo Alatriste. It is loosely based on Halma, a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós.

With The Long Absence, Viridiana was the winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival,[1] but it was banned in Spain for sixteen years despite having been produced after the Franco government invited Buñuel to return to Spain.

Contents

Synopsis

A young novitiate is about to take her vows named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), who is told by her Mother Superior that she should visit her uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), her only living relative. After some time on his large country estate, he tries to seduce her, believing that she resembles his deceased wife. Hearing of his desire to marry her, Viridiana attempts to flee the house immediately, but is subdued by Jaime and drugged with the help of his servant Ramona. He takes her to her room and considers raping her in her sleep, but decides otherwise.

The next morning he tells her that he took her virginity, and says that therefore she cannot return to her convent. By this means he intends to make her wish to stay, but instead she is disgusted and starts to pack. He tries to rectify the situation by telling her that he lied, hoping it would convince her to stay, but this does little to appease her. He asks for her forgiveness, but she ignores him and leaves the house. She is on the way back to the convent when the authorities stop her, telling her something terrible has happened. Back at the house, her uncle has hanged himself.

Viridiana collects the village paupers, returns to the estate, and installs them in an outbuilding. Shunning the convent, she instead devotes herself to the moral education and feeding of this exceedingly motley group. Meanwhile, Don Jaime's son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal), moves into the house with his girlfriend, Lucia. He, like his father, lusts after Viridiana, who scorns him.

A model of moral rectitude, Viridiana will soon suffer for her good deeds. When she and Jorge leave to visit a lawyer in the town, the paupers break into the house, initially just planning to look around. But, faced with such bounty, things degenerate into a drunken, riotous orgy—all to the strains of Handel's Messiah. Posing for a photo (sans camera) around the table, the beggars collectively resemble the figures in Da Vinci's Last Supper; a chair substitutes for the door which now cuts into the fresco, and removed Christ's feet. This scene, in particular, earned the film the Vatican's opprobrium.

The members of the household return earlier than expected to find the house in a shambles. As Jorge and Viridiana walk around the house in shock, the beggars excuse themselves and leave without explaining their behavior. Jorge continues to inspect the house upstairs and encounters a beggar who pulls a knife on him. Another beggar comes from behind and breaks a bottle over Jorge's head, knocking him out. When Viridiana arrives, she sees Jorge on the floor and runs to his side, but is then overpowered by the two beggars. Viridiana would surely have been raped except that Jorge, who is tied up, bribes one beggar to kill the other.

Viridiana is a changed woman: her crown of thorns is symbolically burnt. Wearing her hair loosely, she knocks on Jorge's door, but finds Ramona with Jorge in his bedroom. With "Shake Your Cares Away" on the record player, Jorge tells Viridiana that they were only playing cards, and urges her to join them, a conclusion that is often seen as implying a ménage à trois.

Cast

Pinal had a daughter with Mr. Alatriste, and named her "Viridiana". The girl was born on Jan 17 1963, and died in a tragic car accident on Oct 25 1982.[citation needed]

Reception

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.[2] 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".[2]

Not all critics of the day were in awe of it. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote:

Luis Bunuel is presenting a variation on an ancient theme in his new Spanish film, "Viridiana," which came to the Paris yesterday. The theme is that well-intended charity can often be badly misplaced by innocent, pious people. Therefore, beware of charity.

... It is an ugly, depressing view of life. And, to be frank about it, it is a little old-fashioned, too. His format is strangely literary; his symbols are obvious and blunt, such as the revulsion of the girl toward milking or the display of a penknife built into a crucifix. And there is something just a bit corny about having his bums doing their bacchanalian dance to the thunder of the "Hallelujah Chorus.[3]

The film was released by the Criterion Collection in USA, and on the Directors Suite label in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment.

References

External links








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