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Viridiana (1961)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Viridiana (1961, Sp./Mex.)

In Luis Bunuel's widely-condemned, subversive and banned surreal masterpiece and ironic drama for suggestions of incest, rape and necrophilia, and for its perceived indictment of Catholic self-righteousness, blasphemy, and obscenity - the winner of the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or) at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival in the year of its release:

  • in the plot, devout Spanish convent novice Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) was compelled to visit her rich, land-owning, reclusive widower uncle Don Jaime's (Fernando Rey) who was still mourning the death of his wife due to a heart attack on their wedding night in his arms - without consummation
  • the first view of the uncle's estate - actually the legs and feet of jump-roping young Rita (Teresa Rabal), the daughter of Don Jaime's maid Ramona (Margarita Lozano) - the lonely, admiring Don Jaime was watching her innocent activity, and offered her a new jump rope
  • the initial meeting between Viridiana and her uncle - somewhat chilly
  • as Don Jaime played the organ, in Viridiana's bedroom, she partially disrobed and revealed her shapely legs when she removed her dark stockings; she also unpacked her suitcase, carrying a small wooden cross and a crown of thorns
  • in the secretive privacy of Don Jaime's bedroom (with a veil draped over his dressing chest), he was seen admiring his wife's wedding clothes - he slipped her white, high-heeled satin shoe over the top half of his right foot; he also modeled her corset in front of a mirror; when Viridiana appeared, he was entranced by the sight of her bare legs in front of the fireplace
  • Don Jaime's one last favor of the reluctant Viridiana - to satisfy his obsession with her similar looks to his deceased wife ("You look just like her"), he clothed his niece Viridiana in his wife's wedding gown. He admitted: "I can't keep my eyes off you" and reluctantly confessed ("You must think I'm mad") that he would like to marry her ("I never want you to leave this house"); her reaction was repulsion: "You can't be in your right mind. I've been so happy here, and now you've spoiled it all"
  • although Don Jaime promised to drop the subject, afterwards his servant Ramona secretly drugged her tea drink; Don Jaime carried Viridiana into the bedroom, reclined her on the bed, kissed her, loosened the top of her dress, buried his head in her breasts, and was tempted to rape her
  • the next day, he falsely confessed to her that he had taken her virginity to keep her from returning to the convent for her final vows; when she was still determined to leave, he admitted that he lied ("I only possessed you in my thoughts") -- but the ultimate result was his own guilty self-humiliation and a suicidal hanging with a jump rope; in his will, he left his estate property to her, shared with his illegitimate, cynical son Jorge (Francisco Rabal)
  • the black comedy sequence of Jorge purchasing a dog from a peasant ("The cart's only for people") - the animal was tied to the undercarriage of a horse-drawn cart (a common Spanish practice); Jorge wished to prevent it from hanging itself - but after the transaction with the peasant, failed to notice - ironically - that another cart moving in the opposite direction had an equally-exhausted dog also tied under it
  • the virtuous and idealistic Viridiana, partly out of guilt, charitably gathered together a destitute group of thieves, beggars, drunks, lepers, cripples, and whores; they took over the house after she had invited them to live at her uncle's crumbling estate, and she had briefly left to formalize inheritance of the property; while absent, they invaded the house and nearly destroyed everything - they killed goats for a feast, dirtied the tablecloth, and broke expensive china and furniture
  • the final most controversial sequence was the drunken parody and re-enactment of Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' by the group - they 'freeze-framed' in a tableau for a mock group portrait at the table, pictured to the sounds of the "Hallelujah Chorus" in Handel's Messiah; at that moment, one of the filthy female beggars, Lola Gaos (Enedina), pretended to be the 'photographer' and metaphorically suggested snapping the picture by lifting her skirt
The "Last Supper"
  • the celebration reverted into an orgiastic riot, with dancing, ribaldry, violence, food-fighting and cross-dressing - anachronistically, a syphilitic beggar clothed himself in the dead wife’s corset and veil and performed an obscene dance, while a couple had sex in the living room behind the sofa; one of the celebrants even attempted to molest and rape Viridiana when she returned to the house
  • totally disillusioned or maybe more sexually aware of herself (after two attempted rapes), Viridiana submitted to playing a game of cards, to the sounds of the early 60s pop tune Shimmy Doll ("Shake Your Cares Away") - as the camera retreated backwards through a closeted doorway
  • the film's ending: a suggested possible menage a trois scene between ex-nun Viridiana, servant Ramona, and her lothario, rakish cousin Jorge


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