Viridiana (1961)

 

 

 

Director:  Luis BuZuel. 

Starring:  Silvia Pinal (Viridiana), Francisco Rabal (Jorge), Fernando Rey (Don Jaime), José Calvo (Beggar), Margarita Lozano (Ramona), José Manuel Martín (Beggar), Victoria Zinny (Lucia), Luis Heredia (Beggar), Joaquín Roa (Beggar), Lola Gaos (Beggar), María Isbert (Beggar), Teresa Rabal (Rita).

parable of the Spanish Civil War by director Luis BuZuel

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

At a convent, the mother superior calls Sister Viridiana over to speak with her. She tells the sister that her uncle sent word that he cannot come to see her take her vows. The young woman is not all that concerned because she hardly knows her uncle. She only met him once. Mother Superior says that her Uncle has invited her to his house. But Viridiana says that she would rather not leave the convent. Mother Superior, however, tells her that her uncle is in poor health and that she should visit him before taking her vows. Viridiana still does not want to go, so Mother Superior tells her that her uncle paid for her studies. And still Viridiana resists saying that she does not want to see the outside world again. It is, however, useless for Viridiana to resist because Mother Superior won’t take no for an answer.

Viridiana arrives at the somewhat run down mansion of Uncle Jaime. She is greeted by Ramona, Don Jaime’s maid. Viridiana is only going to stay for a few days. She mentions to her uncle that he has neglected the farm. Heading for the house, they run into Rita, the daughter of Ramona, who loves to jump rope. Uncle tells Viridiana that she both walks like her aunt and has a voice like her's. At the mansion Viridiana tries to continue her ascetic life style. She even sleeps on the floor.

The next morning Viridiana asks her uncle if he really does have a son as her mother had told her. He admits that it is true. He had a fling with a poor woman and then let her keep the boy because he wanted to marry Viridiana’s aunt.

Don Jamie tries on one of his wife’s shoes. He even starts to put on her corset, but is interrupted by Viridiana who is sleep walking through the house.

It is Viridiana’s last full day at the mansion and her uncle is desperately trying to think of a way to get her to stay a few more days. He even asks Ramona to speak to her. At night uncle asks Viridiana to do him a favor and Virdiana tells him he only has to ask and it will be done.

The next scene is of Viridiana in her deceased aunt’s complete wedding dress. At first Viridiana had been insulted when uncle asked her to dress as his wife, but she had a change of heart and got into the outfit. Uncle is both surprised and ecstatic that Viridiana granted his wish. He tells her that her aunt died of a heart attack in his arms on their wedding night wearing that wedding dress.

Helping her employer, Ramona tells Viridiana that uncle wants to marry her. Viridiana thinks that uncle must be a little crazy. She bolts for her room, but uncle grabs her arm begging her not to leave. She sits down. Ramona puts some sleeping powder into a cup of coffee and has Viridiana drink it. She falls asleep and uncle carries her to her room. There he starts unbuttoning her dress unbuttoning her dress exposing the tops of her breasts. He kisses her and starts to caress her, but suddenly stops and leaves.

The next morning Viridiana wakes up with a headache. Ramona is there to give her a glass of water. Uncle comes into the room and asks Ramona to leave. Viridiana is now frightened of her uncle and she asks him to leave because she has to go back to the convent. He tells her that last night he slept with her and she is no longer a virgin. He says: "Now you can’t return to the convent."  She tells him to leave and he complies.

Viridiana gets up to pack. She dresses in her old frumpy dress and starts to leave. Uncle begs her not to leave him and admits that he lied about having taken advantage of her. She tells him that he disgusts her. He lets her leave the house. She takes the carriage into town to catch the bus.

In town the police stop her before she can get on the bus. They tell her to come with them back to the mansion because something terrible has happened. Back at the mansion Viridiana is shocked and upset to see her uncle’s body hanging by the child’s jump rope from a tree limb. He has committed suicide.

Viridiana now decides not to return to the convent. Instead, she brings the drunks and bums, both men and women, to the mansion to feed and take care of them. At about the same time, her uncle’s son Jorge and his girlfriend arrive at the mansion. Uncle left the mansion and land to his son. Jorge watches from the window as Viridiana arrives with the poor and wretched behind her. Jorge introduces himself and his girlfriend to Viridiana. Jorge is not too pleased having these people on his property, but his girlfriend tells him to leave Viridiana alone. Jorge believes Viridiana is rotten with piety.

At dinner the bums and beggars start quarreling and fighting. Viridiana tells them that they will work in and around the mansion according to their wishes and talents. The group wants to throw out a man who they accuse of having leprosy (but it is only a terrible case of varicose veins), but Viridiana tells them that the man stays. But as soon as Viridiana leaves the dining area, they force the man out at knife point.

Jorge has big plans for improving the mansion and the grounds and he tells Viridiana about his ideas. Later she tells Jorge that she wants to start a shelter, with his permission. He agrees. Jorge’s girlfriend sees that Jorge really likes Viridiana, so she leaves the mansion.

While work proceeds on the mansion, Viridiana has the paupers pray with her in the fields. The mansion’s regular worker, Moncho, leaves. He just cannot stand to be around the paupers. (Jorge flirts with Ramona who likes him.)

One day Viridiana, Ramona and Rita, and Jorge all go to town on various errands. They are to come back the following day. Viridiana appoints one of the paupers to be in charge while she is away and tells him to make sure he makes everyone behave themselves.

While the cat’s away, the mice will play. The paupers decide to make a special banquet where they will feast like kings. A couple of the women enter the main mansion through a window and invite the others inside. The women spread a banquet table with an expensive table cloth of French lace. They justify this by saying they will put everything back before the bosses return. Soon the whole group is having their dinner in the mansion. And, of course, they start to argue with one another and make a mess of the table cloth. A woman says she wants to take everyone’s picture, so everyone gets on one side of the table and takes up a pose just like that of Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. But instead of taking a picture, the woman lifts her dress to flash the group and everyone bursts out laughing.

One of the beggars gets angry when he learns that the woman he wanted to have sex with is having sex with another man behind the sofa. He gets so angry that he starts breaking everything on the table with his walking cane. The place is a real mess and some of the paupers start to leave fearing they will get into big trouble.

At this time everyone returns from town. Jorge sees the paupers leaving the dining room, some of them telling him that he had told them that they would not be back until the next day. He tells them to get out. But there are two men who are not ready to leave. One of the men pulls a knife on Jorge, who picks up a chair to defend himself. As he faces off with the knife holder, the other pauper (the Leper) hits Jorge with a bottle on the head knocking him out. At this time Viridiana shows up.

The two men tie Jorge up and the knife wielder starts to struggle with Viridiana in an attempted rape. Jorge tries frantically to release himself from the ropes, but it is to no avail. So he thinks up a different strategy. He tells the Leper that he will make him a rich man if he will kill the rapist. After some haggling, the Leper agrees. He hits the rapist on the back of the head numerous times with a small shovel used to pick up the ashes from the fireplace. Ramona returns with the police.

The paupers are now gone. Moncho returns to work in the fields. Jorge starts having an affair with Ramona. After recovering from her shock, Viridiana lets her blond hair down, puts on a nice dress, burns her crown of thorns and knocks on Jorge’s door. Jorge is surprised but happy to see her. He tells her that he and Ramona were just playing cards. He invites her to play cards with them and uses a phrase that indicates that Jorge is planning a ménage a trois.

 

Very good movie.  This was the director's answer to why the fascists in Spain under General Franco came to power.  In the movie Viridiana's lecherous uncle and then his son represent the fascists.  The Uncle and son are able to seduce Viridiana (representing the overly pious Catholic Church) and Viridiana then seduces the less fortunate in Spanish society (represented by the paupers).  The accusation is that the Church and the working class/poor were seduced by fascism.  It also seems to me that the director was also criticizing the liberal intellectual approach to fascism.  He implies that the intellectuals were blinded by their overly optimistic attitude about the nature of man.  Leftists tend to think that man is naturally good and only corrupted by evil social forces.  This attitude is reflected in Viridiana, who is devoted to the Church, (but is overly pious and trying to escape from the real world) and to the less fortunate (but overly optimistic in her judgment of what the less fortunate will or can do).   The Church and the less fortunate were seduced by the fascists, while the left looked on helplessly, blinded by their own ideologies to what was really happening in Spain. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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