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French poster
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Written byLuis Buñuel
Julio Alejandro
Produced byGustavo Alatriste
StarringSilvia Pinal
Francisco Rabal
Fernando Rey
CinematographyJosé F. Aguayo
Edited byPedro del Rey
Distributed byFilms Sans Frontières[citation needed]
Release dates
17 May 1961 (Cannes Film Festival)
10 October 1963 (Mexico)
9 April 1977 (Barcelona)
2 May 1977 (Madrid)
Running time
90 min.

Viridiana (pronounced [biɾiˈðjana]) is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican comedy-drama film directed by Luis Buñuel and produced by Gustavo Alatriste.[1] It is loosely based on the 1895 novel Halma by Benito Pérez Galdós.

The film was the co-winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival.[2] In a 2016 poll of 350 experts organized by Spanish film magazine Caimán Cuadernos de Cine, it was voted the best Spanish film of all time, with 227 votes.

In the film, a novice nun is instructed to spend some time at the mansion of her reclusive uncle, her last living relative and main financial support. The uncle attempts to rape her, tries to convince her to live with him, and then commits suicide. Viridiana shares his inheritance with an illegitimate cousin, and decides against becoming a nun. Following a home invasion, the heiress is raped by one of the burglars. Saved by her cousin, the former nun agrees to make up a threesome with her cousin and his mistress.


Before taking her final vows as a nun, Viridiana is instructed to visit her only living relative, an uncle who financed her education and upkeep. This relative is Don Jaime, a recluse with a decaying mansion and estate, cared for by a servant named Ramona.

On her last night there, Don Jaime discloses that his wife, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Viridiana, died in their bed on their wedding night. He implores Viridiana to wear the wedding dress and veil that he has lovingly preserved. After drugging her coffee, he carries her to the bed and is on the verge of raping her when he regains control of himself.

In the morning, he claims that she can no longer return to the convent because she is no longer a virgin. Despite his pleas and insistence that it was a lie, Viridiana packs her belongings and flees. Waiting at a bus stop, she is apprehended by the police and brought back to the mansion. Don Jaime has hanged himself from a tree, leaving a will that divides his assets between Viridiana and an illegitimate son named Jorge.

Determined that she cannot lead a life as a nun, Viridiana decides to assist those in need. She gathers vagrants, providing them with shelter and sustenance in the outbuildings. Jorge, along with his girlfriend Lucía, arrives and becomes engrossed in renovating the neglected land and buildings. He also initiates a covert relationship with Ramona. Bored by rustic isolation and envious of Viridiana, whom Jorge wishes to conquer, Lucía leaves.

One night, while Jorge and Viridiana are in town on business with Ramona, the beggars break into the mansion. Initially, they pilfer items, but then decide to stage a banquet, complete with a group photograph set to the Hallelujah Chorus in a parody of The Last Supper. This event devolves into a drunken orgy of sex and destruction. When the owners return, most of the beggars flee, but two men capture Jorge and Viridiana, tying him up while one starts to rape Viridiana at knifepoint. As the other waits his turn, Jorge persuades him with cash to kill the assailant. The police arrive, summoned by Ramona.

A few nights later, Ramona and Jorge are playing cards in his bedroom to lively music[a] when they invite Viridiana in to create a threesome. In a seemingly drugged state, she walks into her fate.

Censored ending[edit]

The Spanish board of censors rejected the original ending of the film, which depicted Viridiana entering Jorge's room and slowly closing the door behind her. A new ending was written and accepted that, according to some film historians, is considered even more debauched, albeit less explicit than the first. This new ending implies a ménage à trois involving Jorge, Ramona, and Viridiana.[3] The released version of the film concludes with Jorge saying, "You know, the first time I saw you, I thought, 'My cousin and I will end up shuffling the deck together.'"



While Viridiana is regarded by many modern critics as a masterpiece, its initial reception was not so uniformly positive. It was sent by the Spanish cinematographic authority to the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d'Or, but then L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, described the film as "blasphemous", and the government of Francisco Franco banned its release in Spain. According to executive producer Pere Portabella, Spanish authorities tried to have the original negative burned, and it only survived because it was with a foreign company who had done some post-production work.[4] The film was not released in Spain until 1977, two years after Franco's death, when Buñuel was 77 years old.[5] For his part, Buñuel said he "didn't deliberately set out to be blasphemous, but then Pope John XXIII is a better judge of such things than I am".[5]

The film won the Belgian Film Critics Association's Grand Prix, but 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."[6]

In 2012, Viridiana was voted the 37th greatest film of all time in the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound directors' poll; it placed 110th in the critics' poll.[7]

Home video[edit]

The film was released by The Criterion Collection in the United States and by Madman Entertainment in Australia (on the "Directors Suite" label) and New Zealand.


  1. ^ "Shimmy Doll" by Ashley Beaumont plays during this scene.


  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. ^ Zurro, Javier (8 Apr 2022). "Interview with Pere Portabella". eldiario.es.
  5. ^ a b Wood, Michael (22 May 2006). "Viridiana: The Human Comedy". Retrieved 15 March 2010.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (20 May 1962). "Movie Review: Viridiana (1961)". The New York Times.
  7. ^ British Film Institute. "Viridiana | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2014-03-07.

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