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Viridiana cover.jpg
Viridiana poster
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Written byJulio Alejandro
Luis Buñuel
Produced byGustavo Alatriste
StarringSilvia Pinal
Francisco Rabal
Fernando Rey
CinematographyJosé F. Aguayo
Edited byPedro del Rey
Music byGustavo Pittaluga
Distributed byFilms Sans Frontières
Release date
  • May 1961 (1961-05)
Cannes Film Festival
Running time
90 min.

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

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


A novice named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is about to take her vows when her only living relative, her uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), invites her to visit him. She has met him only once, and is reluctant to comply. Her mother superior pressures her to accept.

Don Jaime is a recluse living on a neglected farm with a few 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.

On her last night Viridiana, grateful for her uncle's longtime financial support, reluctantly complies with his odd request for her to don his wife's wedding gown. When Ramona informs her that Don Jaime wants to marry her, she's aghast, and her uncle seems to drop the idea. Ramona secretly drugs Viridiana's drink and Don Jaime carries the unconscious girl to her room intending to rape her, but at the last minute he stops. However, the next morning he lies and tells her that he "took her virginity", so she cannot return to her convent. When she insists that she must go back, he confesses that he lied, leaving her uncertain about what had happened.

At the bus stop, the authorities prevent her from leaving. Her uncle has hanged himself, leaving his property to her 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 feeding and morally educating them. Disgusted, Moncho departs. Jorge moves into the house with his girlfriend Lucia and starts to renovate the rundown place. Lucia, sensing that he lusts after Viridiana like his father did, leaves. Jorge then makes a pass at the willing Ramona.

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

The rightful owners return earlier than expected and find the house in shambles. The miscreants excuse themselves one by one and leave. Jorge confronts one of them, who pulls a knife. Another beggar strikes his head with a bottle, knocking him out. Viridiana enters the room and hastens to help Jorge who is lying on the floor. The first man grabs her. As Viridiana resists sexual assault, Jorge regains consciousness. He has been tied up, but manages to bribe one beggar to kill the would-be rapist. The police finally arrive.

Viridiana is a changed woman and young Rita burns her crown of thorns. Wearing her hair loosely, Viridiana knocks on Jorge's door, but finds Ramona with him in his bedroom. As Ashley Beaumont sings "Shimmy Doll" on the record player, Jorge tells Viridiana that they were only playing cards and urges her to join them: "You know, the first time I saw you, I thought, my cousin and I will end up shuffling the deck together."

Censored ending[edit]

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



Today Viridiana is regarded by many critics as a masterpiece; reception was not, however, as adamantly positive on initial release. 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". According to producer Pere Portabella, Spanish authorities tried to have the film burned so that it wouldn't be released, and the original tape survived only because it had been sent to a foreign company to review its post production for the Cannes festival. [4] The film wouldn't be released in Spain until 1977, after Franco's death, when Buñuel was 77 years old.[5] 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".[5]

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."[6]

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 Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.

Viridiana was voted the 37th greatest film of all time in the directors' poll of the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound issue and placed 110th in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest films ever made..[7]


  1. ^ "Viridiana". IMDb. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Viridiana". 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".
  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". Archived from the original on 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2014-03-07.

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