Surrealist Sundays: Viridiana



Viridiana (1961)

dir. Luis Bunuel

starring: Silvia Pinal, Fernando Rey

Viridiana is like two movies in one.  As such, it doesn’t feel like a cohesive piece.  It begins as an uncomfortable family reunion and turns into a lampoon of our beliefs in humanity’s inner goodness.

Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is a novice nun about to take her vows.  The Mother Superior sends her home after hearing that Viridiana’s uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) is very ill.  Viridiana goes home, but with hesitation.  She hasn’t been home in years.  When he sees her, he sees she looks exactly like his dead wife.  He asks her to marry him.  She, of course, refuses.  He drugs her and dresses her in his wife’s wedding dress.  After that night, Don Jaime commits suicide.  Viridiana, feeling like a ruined woman, stays in her uncle’s home.  However, she chooses to do some good while she’s there.

She takes in local beggars, a prostitute, and a leper.  She lets them stay at the house and earn a living.  It’s almost like a medieval feudal system, however Bunuel reminds us of man’s true nature.  The beggars she takes in are just as petty, ungrateful, and greedy as anyone else.  That’s a nice surprise.  It culminates in a raucous dinner party and a re-staging of The Last Supper painting.

Being a Bunuel film, there are the foot fetish moments.  There is an inordinate amount of time spent on her taking off her shoes.  What stayed with me the most, was the pessimistic view of humanity.  The beggars shun the leper, Viridiana’s uncle takes advantage of her.  By the end of the film, Viridiana is defeated, spiritually.  It is a strange and sly film, that ultimately feels empty.


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