Viridiana

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Viridiana
Viridiana cover.jpg
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 dates 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 (pronounced: [βiɾiðiˈana]) is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican motion picture, directed by Luis Buñuel and produced by Mexican Gustavo Alatriste.[1] It is loosely based on Halma, a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós.

Viridiana was the winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Plot[edit]

A young novice named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is about to take her vows when her uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), invites her to visit him. He is her only living relative, but she has only met him once and is reluctant to comply. Her Mother Superior pressures her into accepting.

Don Jaime is a recluse, living on a neglected farm with only a couple of servants: Ramona (Margarita Lozano), her daughter Rita, and Moncho. When Don Jaime sees his niece he is struck by her strong resemblance to his deceased wife.

The night before she is to leave, Viridiana, grateful for her uncle's longtime financial support, reluctantly complies with his odd request and puts on his wife's wedding dress. When Ramona informs Viridiana that Don Jaime wants to marry her, she is aghast, and Don Jaime seems to drop the idea. However, Ramona secretly drugs her drink. He carries the unconscious woman to her room with the intention of raping her, but at the last moment decides otherwise.

The next morning, he lies and tells her that he took her virginity, so she cannot go back to her convent. When she is undeterred, he confesses he lied, leaving her uncertain what happened that night. At the bus stop, the authorities prevent her from leaving. Her uncle has hanged himself, leaving his property to Viridiana and his illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal).

Deeply disturbed, Viridiana decides not to return to the convent. Instead, she collects some beggars and installs them in an outbuilding. She devotes herself to the moral education and feeding of this exceedingly motley group. Disgusted, Moncho departs.

Jorge moves into the house with his girlfriend Lucia and starts renovating the rundown place. Lucia senses that he, like his father, lusts after Viridiana, and soon leaves. Jorge then makes a pass at the unwilling Ramona.

When Viridiana and Jorge leave for a couple of days to take care of some business, the paupers break into the house. Initially they just want to look around, but faced with such bounty things degenerate into a drunken, riotous party, to the strains of Handel's Messiah. Posing for a photo around the table, the beggars resemble the figures in Da Vinci's Last Supper.

The rightful owners return earlier than expected to find the house a shambles. The miscreants excuse themselves one by one and leave. Jorge confronts a beggar, who pulls a knife on him. When the man assaults Viridiana, Jorge tries to rescue her, but another beggar strikes him in the head with a bottle, knocking him out. Viridiana resists being violated long enough for Jorge to regain consciousness. He has been tied up, but manages to bribe one beggar into killing the would-be rapist. The police then arrive to restore order.

Viridiana is a changed woman. The child Rita burns her crown of thorns. Wearing her hair loosely, Viridiana knocks on Jorge's door, but finds Ramona with Jorge in his bedroom. With Ashley Beaumont singing Shimmy Doll on the record player, Jorge tells Viridiana that they were only playing cards, and urges her to join them, stating "Cousin, I knew you would someday shuffle the cards."

Ending[edit]

The Spanish board of censors rejected the original ending of the film, which depicted Virdiana entering her cousin's room and slowly closing the door behind her. Consequently, a new ending was written which turned out to be more suggestive than the first — since it implied a ménage à trois among Ramona, Jorge, and Viridiana.[3]

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

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.[4] 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".[4]

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

Luis Buñuel 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.[5]

The film was released by the Criterion Collection in the United States, on the Directors Suite label in Australia, and by Madman Entertainment in New Zealand. It won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.

Viridiana was voted as the 37th greatest film of all time on the Directors' top 100 films of all time in Sight & Sounds 2012 poll of the greatest films ever made.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Viridiana". IMDb. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Viridiana". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  3. ^ Buñuel, Luis. My Last Sigh. Trans. Abigail Israel. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8166-4387-3. page 237.
  4. ^ a b Wood, Michael (22 May 2006). "Viridiana: The Human Comedy". Retrieved 15 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (20 May 1962). "Movie Review: Viridiana (1961)". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ British Film Institute. "Viridiana | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 

External links[edit]