Viridiana (1961) – Luis Buñuel

The more of Luis Buñuel I see, the more I like.  Today’s offering was 1961’s Viridiana.  Franco’s government invited the director back to Spain to make the film, and ended up banning it once the final project was revealed.  L’Osservatore Romano reportedly called it “blasphemous.”

(sidenote: Does L’Osservatore Romano publish English-language archives online?)

Parody of The Las Supper in Luis Buñuel's ViridianaThe Vatican condemnation makes sense.  The Last Supper parody in which diseased bacchanalians take the place of apostles and a flasher sits in for da Vinci isn’t exactly Sunday School viewing.  Neither is the plot-line of the aspiring nun who is the victim or an attempted rape or two.

It’s the fascist condemnation that doesn’t quite fit.  The film is a straightforward satire on Christian charity, but works nearly as well as a satire on communism.  Viridiana is a regular Saint Clare, taking in poor beggars off the street, feeding them, and teaching them communal work.  But because the poor share the same human nature as the rich, they quickly devolve into the same pettiness, violence and corrupt sexuality that the bourgeois exhibit – both in this film and in many others, including some of Buñuel’s.

Franco was clearly more disturbed by the religious content than the political message.

The idea that the poor are just as sinful as the rich doesn’t seem too revolutionary, until you look at the majority of Western art and literature.  Usually we get the Charles Dickens trope.  If only the mean rich people were to leave and the poor people were put in charge, things would run more smoothly.

Silvia Pinal in Luis Buñuel's VIRIDIANA.  Credit: Janus Films.  Viridiana in contrast, might have been written by Ayn Rand.  It’s about as anti-populist as you can get.  Rand however, would have tossed in a Prometheus or two.  Buñuel’s Calvinistic misanthropy allows for no heroes.

Oh, and Buñuel’s foot fetish is delightful.

Thanks to blogger of for assisting with research.

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  1. bradley July 25, 2010

    Fantastic. Thanks ACR, I might have my evening's entertainment if I can find it.

    1. Adam Call Roberts July 27, 2010

      If you can't find it at the library, Netflix has it on DVD. (though not streaming) I'm glad you found this useful!

  2. bradley July 27, 2010

    I managed to find a copy. Now I'm just waiting for an opportunity... my 4yr old would probably have trouble reading the captions. :D

  3. bradley July 31, 2010

    I enjoyed it. It was surprisingly dark at times, but the honesty was nice.

    1. Adam Call Roberts August 3, 2010

      I'm glad you liked it. Dark humor is my favorite - be sure to check out his Land Without Bread - - it's free online.