Viridiana – Mocking Charity

The more of Luis Buñuel I see, the more I like.  Today’s offering was 1961′s Viridiana.  Franco’s government invited the director back to Spain to make the film, and ended up banning it once the final project was revealed.  L’Osservatore Romano reportedly called it “blasphemous.”

(sidenote: Does L’Osservatore Romano publish English-language archives online?)

The Vatican condemnation makes sense.  The Last Supper parody in which diseased bacchanalians take the place of apostles and a flasher sits in for da Vinci isn’t exactly Sunday School viewing.  Neither is the plot-line of the aspiring nun who is the victim or an attempted rape or two.

It’s the fascist condemnation that doesn’t quite fit.  The film is a straightforward satire on Christian charity, but works nearly as well as a satire on communism.  Viridiana is a regular Saint Clare, taking in poor beggars off the street, feeding them, and teaching them communal work.  But because the poor share the same human nature as the rich, they quickly devolve into the same pettiness, violence and corrupt sexuality that the bourgeois exhibit – both in this film and in many others, including some of Buñuel’s.

Franco was clearly more disturbed by the religious content than the political message.

The idea that the poor are just as sinful as the rich doesn’t seem too revolutionary, until you look at the majority of Western art and literature.  Usually we get the Charles Dickens trope.  If only the mean rich people were to leave and the poor people were put in charge, things would run more smoothly.

Viridiana in contrast, might have been written by Ayn Rand.  It’s about as anti-populist as you can get.  Rand however, would have tossed in a Prometheus or two.  Buñuel’s Calvinistic misanthropy allows for no heroes.

Oh, and Buñuel’s foot fetish is delightful.

Viridiana is #73 on the Top 1000 Films listTop 1000 Films list I’m working on.  I’ve now seen 347.

Thanks to blogger of jonvox.com for assisting with research.

About Adam Call Roberts

I'm counting down through the list of 1,000 Greatest Films. Follow my journey here.
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5 Responses to Viridiana – Mocking Charity

  1. bradley says:

    Fantastic. Thanks ACR, I might have my evening’s entertainment if I can find it.

  2. bradley says:

    I managed to find a copy. Now I’m just waiting for an opportunity… my 4yr old would probably have trouble reading the captions. :D

  3. bradley says:

    I enjoyed it. It was surprisingly dark at times, but the honesty was nice.

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