Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Almost hard to describe. The characters merit the audience's apathy, although they are clearly intriguing. The scenes with the paupers are revolting, yet carry too much of the message to be dismissed.
Bunuel dares you to laugh.
darragh o'donoghue | 04/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Viridiana' begins like a mad Spanish variant on Roger Corman's Poe adaptations. Don Jaime is the Vincent Price-like mad widower (his wife died of heart-attack on their wedding night), haunting his crumbling manor, neglecting his decaying lands, mournfully playing an old piano or listening to Bach and Handel records. At night, by a coffin in which is draped his bride's wedding dress, he wears her shoes and corset. In his past is a shameful story of youthful transgression, and an abandoned, illegitimate son. He invites his niece, Viridana, a dead ringer for his wife, to stay with him for the few days before she takes holy orders. In a fantastic ritual, he asks her to wear the wedding dress and proposes marriage; when she refuses, he drugs her, with the aid of his devoted servant - to whose daughter he gives the skipping rope that takes on an importance from the merely symbolic into the fetishistic and violent - and takes the niece to the bedroom for a necrophiliac rape. Prior to this, he had caught her in one of her sleepwalking trances, throwing her knitting into the fire, and pouring ashes on her uncle's bed. Pure Poe.Poe was one of the acknowledged precursors of the Surrealists, and in 'Viridiana', Bunuel makes use of two Gothic tropes - the Gothic house/castle/manor is often a figure for the disintegrating mind, but also a metaphor for the nation: Don Jaime's madness, his gentility masking a dangerous egotism, his passion perversely and inwardly directed so that it feeds on itself, his neglect of the land, are all tenets of Franco's Spain, a pinched, gnarled, sterile world in this film. The Gothic was also the genre in which society could dramatise those anxieties - death, sexual deviance, social disruption - not talked aobut in the middle class public sphere. Gothic novels often featured representative, hyper-virtuous heroines who had to negotiate evils such a society would cast out. Such a reading applies to 'Viridiana' also, with the title character, who has spent most of her life closed off from the world, hidden from its temptations, confronted with unpalatable distortions of desire, family, the body, community, class etc.In 'Viridiana', however, Bunuel conflates these two movements - the Gothic as social allegory, and as site of released repressions. The film's infamous second half - in which Viridiana attempts to atone for a suicide by caring for beggars and outcasts, and her uncle's son's attempts to modernise the home - savagely mixes them up. The beggars, embodying a whole antheap of qualities, desires, realities the Spanish ruling class and bourgeoisie everywhere suppress, take over the mansion, mishandle its possessions, parody its civilising artefacts (food, music, painting, sculpture), a destructive Bacchic frenzy contemptuous of viewers - we may cheer when the meek inherit the earth, but a greater pack of brutal thugs, informing sneaks, loathesome lepers or frothing rapists you'll never see; while Don Jaime, for all his monstrosity, has a quiet grace absent from the other characters. His servants assume their own thuggish hierarchy when faced with the amoral vagrants, asserting their perceived superiority. The celestial Viridiana's initiation into the 'earthy' is not something anyone, whatever their politics, can buy. It is wholly characteristic that Bunuel should couch this moral dynamite in one of his most visually beautiful films - the recurring Bunuel motifs (feet, ropes etc.; religious paraphernalia as bondage gear); the dense compositions, at once framing characters in their environment and mocking them; and the startling zooms out, from intimate close-ups on parts of the body to the shocking realisation that someone is always watching."
David Drori Dr | Rehovot, Israel | 05/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best pictures I have seen in my short life of 75 years. The plot is economical and excellent. The direction of Bunuel is outstanding (hardly news that). The plot exposes the hypocrisy of the devout, the fallibilty of human nature, the hopelessness of poverty and the uselessness of instictive philantropy. It would be difficult to make a better picture on the subject. I have seen it many times and I would see it again and again. Bunuel had to smuggle it out of Spain while Franco was ruling it but Franco loved it too... He would watch it in private..."
A Parable from an Atheist.
Maximiliano F Yofre | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 01/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Luis Buñuel was the epitome of Surrealism in movies. All his pictures, even the underrated from his Mexican period, are provoking. He was an atheist but, as many Spaniards, his soul and works are always tinted by the presence of the Divinity. His visceral attacks are mostly focused onto the Catholic Hierarchy and the double moral practiced by the bourgeoisies.
In "Viridiana" (1961) as in most of his films, characters are ambiguous. They shed light and cast shadows to each other. There are no "absolutes"; even the more despicable have some traits of "virtue" and vice versa. This movie is quite straightforward by Buñuel's standards. Without the fascinating and troubling daydream images he delivers in "Belle de Jour" or "That Obscure Object of Desire", he manages to give the watcher a hallucinatory-like world.
The storyline is as follows: Viridiana, a novice just going to profess, is recalled to her uncle's home. She reluctantly goes to pay a visit to her aging uncle and is involved in his lusty necrophilia fantasies. She flees the manor, but at the railway station she is stopped by the police with the notice that her uncle has committed suicide. She inherits the mansion sharing its possession with Jorge, his uncle's natural son. From that moment on two projects coexist: Jorge tries to modernize the ranch's exploitation and Viridian collects and give shelter to a group of town's paupers. Buñuel contrast this two projects with his usual bitterness and arrives to a final sequence that leaves the viewer in shock.
It is a great and dark film for adult audience. Be aware that Christian, particularly Catholic Christians, may be upset by the final sequences of the movie. Reviewed by Max Yofre."
To make such genial film you need not only the natural gift, but besides the moral conviction and the necessary force to push against all the odds this brutally eloquent portrait of the last consequences involved when you decide to be in straight line according the holly precept of a concrete theologic virtue: the charity.
Just think in the historic moment the film was made. Buñuel was essentially an anti establishment artist , and his political posture is well known and one of his primary concerns consisted in proving that we are not in the best of the possible worlds and this statement scopes the shade of the Totalitarian Regimes in search a better world for the mankind : the search of the total welfare implies necessarily the demolition of the previous Status Quo. And if you watch with absolute coldness and free or passionless, you will feel this invisible slap in the face of the most devoted believers the human happiness can be stated. The literal mess when the alcohol make his late effects in the middle of this humble crowd , slowly and progressively goes showing the ugliness of the feelings behind the mask of good manners, creating a real atmosphere of claustrophobia and horror in the worst sense of the word. The sinister parody to the last Supper was immediately rejected by many religious sectors: Once more the forest avoided to watch the real intentions of Buñuel.
This extraordinary, original, powerful and unforgettable film is one the supreme master jewels of the Cinema in any age.
The performance of one of the most beautiful and talented actress in that age: Silvia Pinal as the prodigal nun who really believes in the fact the human still can be redeemable is simply of first rate. And the script deserves simply an everlasting applause. After you watch this merciless picture you will reformulate your inner vision about certain issues you considered out of discussion. "