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Film Details

Directed by: Luis Bunuel

Produced: 1961

Countries & Regions: France, Spain

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Studio: Arrow Films

Length: 87 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 28 August 2006

Cat No: FCD298

Extras:
Languages(s): Spanish
Subtitles: English
Interactive Menu
Screen ratio 1:1.33
Dolby Mono

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Viridiana

Cast: Fernando Rey , Francisco Rabal , Silvia Pinal , Margarita Lozano , Jose Manuel Martin , Jose Calvo , Victoria Zinny , Teresa Rabal , Joaquin Roa , Luis Heredia

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Winner of the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1961, Bunuel’s film is widely regarded as his masterpiece. Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is a young... Read More

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Winner of the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1961, Bunuel’s film is widely regarded as his masterpiece. Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is a young religious novitiate who visits her last remaining relative, the wealthy Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), before she takes her vows. Don Jaime secretly harbours a desire for Viridiana, based on her striking resemblance to his wife - who died thirty years ago on their wedding night. After making Viridiana wear the original wedding dress he attempts to rape her, but fails and commits suicide in a fit of guilt, leaving his huge estate to Viridiana and his son Jorge (Francisco Rabal). The virtuous Viridiana tries to help the local poor, but her idealistic deeds inevitably backfire. Bunuel’s film mocks Spanish Catholism, holding it responsible for many social ills. The film is often remembered for its parody of Leonardo’s Last Supper, and was banned in both Spain and Italy.

Enjoyable, funny & well staged.

A contemporary cartoon by Alberto Isaac describes well the initial indignation and subsequent reaction to Buñuel returning to Franco’s Spain to make his first film there for 22 years. In the first frame Buñuel arrives in Spain and is greeted warmly by Franco as a man protests in the background. In the second frame Buñuel gives Franco a beribboned box. The protestor continues to protest. In the third, the box explodes in Franco’s face, Buñuel leaves and the protestor is dumbfounded. Shocking (still), blasphemous, fetishistic, perverse, Viridiana might well have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but remained banned in Spain until 1977.

The film begins when lonely old rascal Don Jaime invites his niece, virginal novice Viridiana, to his country estate for a last visit before she takes her vows. She never returns to the convent, her experiences there leading her to see her life’s ‘humble work’ as caring for the poor and the sick with a regime of work, a healthy diet and early nights. The motley collection of beggars she rounds up has other ideas. ‘Let’s kill a couple of lambs and eat them’, one says as soon as Viridiana is out of the way. Breaking into the house they find the cutlery and cloths: ‘To die without eating off such wonderful linen!’ one bemoans. Cut to a drunken hand spilling a glass of red wine at the start of the infamous scene that wickedly parodies Leonardo’s ‘Last Supper’ and has the beggars dancing in Don Jaime’s wife’s trousseau to Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.

There’s an understated perversity running through the film that complements the set-pieces well, as with Don Jaime trying on his wife’s wedding shoes and corset, or his servant’s daughter skipping below the tree from which Don Jaime hangs himself (with the skipping rope he bought for her). ‘Don Jaime liked to watch me skip’ she says. You get the feeling that Don Jaime in his death has a smile on his face.

Objects too travel through the film along with people: the skipping rope that is a means to look at a young girl’s legs becomes a noose and then the cord for a pair of beggar’s trousers. Buñuel has the capacity to make the smallest details indecent too, as when Don Jaime’s son Jorge puts his fingers into a tiny jewelled purse after he has talked about his attraction for Viridiana. Even the Spanish censor had a hand in unwittingly making the film more suggestive than originally planned by forcing Buñuel to change the ending to something apparently more innocent and acceptable, but which, because of the double-meaning of the words for the card game they are playing, suggests that Viridiana, Don Jorge and Ramona are about to embark on a ménage a trois.

The camerawork, usually one of the overlooked aspects of Buñuel’s films is typically discreet, understated and efficient. Indeed, it’s so unobtrusively effective you actually have to force yourself to notice it.

Completely indifferent to niceties such as piety and goodness, the film is, need it be said, thoroughly enjoyable – as long as you are attuned to Buñuel’s predisposition to finding humour in everything human nature has in it. Hallelujah.

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