Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Tristana (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Tristana (1970, Fr./It./Sp.)

In Luis Bunuel's coming-of-age drama about obsession, hypocrisy, religion (Catholicism) and sex, described in its tagline as: "Somewhere between the innocent girl and the not-so-innocent mistress is the bizarre, sensuous story of Tristana" - similar in theme to Bunuel's own Viridiana (1961), and his final film That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), as well as Kubrick's Lolita (1960):

  • the title character in 1920s-1930s Toledo, Spain: young teenaged and orphaned Tristana (Catherine Deneuve), and placed under the guardianship of elderly, respectable, but decadent, atheistic and sexually-perverted aristocrat-nobleman Don Lope Garrido (Fernando Rey), a free-thinking Socialist and philanderer [Note: it was entirely possible that Tristana was his own child - her deceased mother was one of Don Lope's lovers]
  • the surrealistic dreamy nightmare of Tristina in a bell tower, where she experienced the "horrific" sight of Don Lope's amputated head seen as a bell clapper swinging back and forth - sounding the bell; awakening in a fright, Don Lope came to her bedside to console her
  • the development of an over-protective, sexually-abusive, over-possessive, father/lover-daughter relationship between the two; the sex scenes between them (off-screen) were hidden behind closed doors
  • the sequences of mistress Tristana's feeling of entrapment and her search for freedom, found in love for studly young painter Horatio (Franco Nero); she told him: "Do you think I don't loathe my life as a slave? I want to be free, to work" - subsequently, she departed from Don Lope for two years to Madrid
  • the sequence of Tristana's forced return to a wealthier Don Lope, after suffering a painful, malignant terminal tumor on her right leg, forcing expensive surgery and amputation
  • the erotic scene of Tristana's preparation to exhibit herself from her second-floor balcony to Saturno (Jesus Fernandez) - her third lover in the film - the mute teenage son of Don Lope's maid Saturna (Lola Gaos); she laid her prosthetic leg on her bed covered with articles of lingerie and undergarments that she had removed, before she emerged on the outdoor terrace; after Saturno signaled for her to open her clothing, she exposed herself by opening her dress and flashing her breasts (off-screen) - with a smile
  • the sequence of Don Lope's and Tristana's church marriage - after Don Lope had asked for and received the embittered and vengeful Tristana's permission to marry; before marriage, she had admitted to local priest Don Ambrosio (Vicente Soler): "How can I marry him, if I can't stand the sight of him?"; Ambrosio urged: "You have to overcome that unhealthy passion. When he was really doing you harm, you accepted it without a word. And now, when he's behaving so well with you... What more can you ask for?"; she replied: "The better he is, the less I love him"
  • the dramatic reversal of personalities in their tragic relationship, now that they were legally tied together: the mellowing, increased religiosity, kindness, and respectfulness of Don Lope, and the cold, God-less, unforgiving bitterness, hard-heartedness and self-destructiveness of Tristana
  • other examples of foot fetishism in Bunuel's film: early in the film, the instances when young Tristana would put on Don Lope's shoes for him; and much later, a view of her exposed right leg nub beneath her skirt as she played the piano and worked the foot pedal with her left leg
Emotionally-Crippled, Vengeful and Deformed
  • the concluding scene on a snowy winter night: the cruel death of Don Lope ultimately from pneumonia, deliberately caused by Tristana, who pretended to call a doctor for him from the adjoining room, and then opened his balcony doors to expose him to the cold air
  • the ending: a quick succession or series of replays of key moments from the film, unreeling the story backwards in a kind of narrative zoom to the first view of Tristana in the opening scene


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