Viridiana

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #332: Luis Buñuel’s Virid­i­ana.

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Virid­i­an comes from the Latin viridis, mean­ing green, but col­or has lit­tle to do with Buñuel’s Virid­i­ana. He took the name from the life of a St. Virid­i­ana [Feb 1st], but that is tan­gen­tial to the action of the film. It is almost eas­i­er to talk about what this film isn’t than about what it is, an influ­ence which stems, I think, from Buñuel’s asso­ci­a­tions with sur­re­al­ism and his own under­stat­ed­ly inter­est­ing per­son­al­i­ty. I’ve seen Un chien andalou and Las Hur­des, but this is the first of Buñuel’s work that I’ve seen with an obvi­ous nar­ra­tive struc­ture. The film itself is above aver­age, but it becomes more inter­est­ing when placed with­in the con­text of its pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion.

This won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was then prompt­ly denounced by the Vat­i­can, sub­se­quent­ly banned in Spain [after being approved by the Franco’s fas­cist cen­sors] and all kinds of oth­er hoopla. This is a film where many things are fetishized, a lit­tle girl’s legs, the novice Viridiana’s legs, women’s cloth­ing; and oth­er things are mere­ly day to day tongue-in-cheek comedic mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions, jump-rope, cloth, music and art. Above all, Virid­i­ana is a com­e­dy in the old­est sense of the word. The main char­ac­ters nev­er prac­tice what they preach, are blind to their own faults, and seem dri­ven more by instinct than will or rea­son. The blas­phe­mous aspects of the film seem to me to be less blas­phe­mous and rather more con­cerned with point­ing out struc­tur­al inad­e­qua­cies in the rela­tion­ship between real life and spir­i­tu­al life.

Buñuel appears to be mak­ing point­ed com­men­taries about the land he returned to after a 20 year exile and the world that could cre­at fas­cist Spain. I don’t think the com­men­taries are inten­tion­al, because the film is not preachy, but there are unavoid­able reflec­tions of Buñuel’s per­son­al world­view echo­ing through­out. His dis­taste for modes of con­trol is quite evi­dent in Virid­i­ana. Virid­i­ana her­self tries to con­trol and direct the wel­fare of the beg­gars that she takes in, but does more to restrict than allow the beg­gars room to live. Sim­i­lar­ly Don Jaime and Don Jorge’s attempts to con­trol the women in their lives show the empti­ness of the men’s lives and a pos­si­ble weak­ness in the cul­ture of Spain at the time [that’s just a guess]. The con­trol cri­tique is most obvi­ous in the reli­gious aspects, and in the end it seems that the mes­sage is: Accept and rev­el in the messi­ness of life instead of try­ing to con­trol it.

Almost an anar­chic mes­sage and cer­tain­ly a sur­re­al­ist one.

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Cri­te­ri­on Essay by Michael Wood
• Objects of Desire: Con­ver­sa­tions with Luis Buñuel [If you’re will­ing to drop 6 bucks to read this inter­view with Buñuel about Virid­i­ana and oth­er films]
• Sens­es of Cin­e­ma arti­cle on Luis Buñuel and Virid­i­ana