Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Julio Alejandro and Luis Buñuel
Union Industrial Cinematografica/Gustavo Alatriste/Films 59
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
I had to keep reminding myself to keep a sense of humor during this unforgettable and very black comedy.
Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is an extremely devout novice who is about to take her vows as a nun. Her uncle Don Jaime (Francisco Rey), whom she has hardly ever seen, has paid for her training and her “dowry”. She has no desire to see him but he more or less orders her to visit, backed up by the Mother Superior. Viridiana’s instincts were all too accurate.
When she arrives, she reminds Jaime strongly of his dead wife, who died of a heart attack on their wedding night. Jaime begins a campaign to make Viridiana his own. This culminates in the administration of a date rape drug. Whether or not a rape actually occurred is left to our imagination. At any rate, Viridiana can no longer return to the convent. Jaime dies soon after.
During Act II, Viridiana decides to live a Godly life by taking in a group of the most ungrateful and downright sinful poor people imaginable. Her situation is made even more miserable by the arrival of Jaime’s worldly illegitimate son.
“Vivid” is the adjective that comes to mind for this movie. Buñuel takes each scene to the edge of surrealism and beyond, leaving an indelible impression. The seduction scenes early in the film and the poor people’s orgy – with its “Last Supper” tableau – are particularly memorable. All of this stuff is both hilarious and viscerally disturbing. If one took it even slightly seriously, the story transforms into something truly depressing. I have to recommend it even if I don’t think I will be giving it a re-watch anytime soon.