Monday, September 24, 2007

Dis-Hope in Luis Buñuel's Viridiana

A couple weeks ago I watched Luis Buñuel's Viridiana, as I was watching I was taken away with it's unique message.

Viridian's plot is unique and complicated in, and also considered very blasphemous by the Vatican and the country of Spain which banned the film from showing for 15 years in Spain.

In a nutshell...the movie tells the story of a nun who returns home for a short trip to visit her wealthy uncle, who has hopeful delusions his niece will live with him and marry him, but when she refuses he poisons her and pretends to take her virginity. As the plot progresses and the old uncle hangs himself, Viridina (the nun) suddenly has chosen not to continue her path as a nun, but in a refreshing 2nd act she is helping and aiding the homeless and indigent population around her wealthy uncle's mansion. Yet when Viridiana must leave for around 24 hours to finalize some paperwork with the lawyers, the homeless people disrespect all of Viridiana's protocols, and run a muck and recklessly, in a way drastically different from all Viridiana's ideals.

While there is a lot of other unique scenes, dialogue, and images in this film, the final feeling that you feel as a viewer is one of dis-hope. It's a feeling that says to throw away your ideals, don't try.

There are so many films that set there aims on being inspirational, or at least in the end show redemption, because messages of hope push us along, urging us to keep at it, and to strive after our ideals.
Obviously, many film makers and writers have instead tried to be more realistic rather than romantic. This drive to be realistic has created a countless number of films which end in death or other horrific moments.

Yet, never before I saw Viridiana did I see a film that did not set it's goals on being inspirational, or realistic. Instead it went at least one notch away from realistic into a category of uninspirational, or dishopeful. It's like a negative fairy tale, with a moral that says don't try, it's all a waste.

I certainly can appreciate this film, it's unique story telling, and many things about it. I think I can even appreciate it's balance to the spectrum of film messages. Yet at the same time, it can leave one with a sinking feeling scratching your head saying "What do I make of this? How would one live in a world with out hope?"

(This post is part of a contribution alongside other post in the Buñuel blog-a-thon hosted by Flickhead)


Anonymous said...

Viridiana, estrenada en España en 1977

Greg said...

You know, anonymous, I was just about to say that myself.

I've always viewed Viridiana as having hope, hope that we can all "find ourselves" and be ourselves when we cast off the restrictions and dogma of society.

It's one of my favorite Bunuel's so I was glad to see you chose it. Thanks for the post.

Joe D said...

To me the film is sort of a Zen lesson. Hope must be based in a realistic view of the world and it's problems. When Viridiana leaves the sheltered world of the convent she crashes into reality and the lessons she learned as a novice prove worthless in the face of lust, greed, envy, etc. I think she learns something by the end of the film but what does she make of it? Will she engage in a menage a trois with her cousin and his girlfriend? Will she be a better or worse person?

RC said...

@ jonathan...i certainly don't feel like viridiana found herself...i felt like she was boxed in by a realistic/non-idealistic society.

@ joe d...i can see where you say hope must be based on a realistic view of the world, BUT like I said to JOnathan above, i don't think she's really learned hope to have hope, rather I think she's giving in at the end to a hopeless reality and living in her own insignifigance. And I certainly don't think the character of Viridiana is thinking of entering a sexual relationships with her cousin at the end when she settles to play the card game...I think at this point, she's just bent on exhisting and passing the time left in her life.

weepingsam said...

It's been a while since I've seen it, but I think there's a political message to it - something about the middle class not being able to save the poor - and maybe a more personal one, that you can't use other people for your own (spiritual?) ends. Something like that. I don't remember it being hopeless so much as disappointing, as far as hopes for doing good - but a reminder that people you do good for have their own agendas. And why should they give up their selves (their interests and desires) to make you feel better about yourself?

Anyway - reading about it reminds me that it's been forever since I saw it - I have to look it up again. It is a very thought provoking film...

Joe D said...

The final line of the film " I always knew you'd end up playing cards with us." is a metaphor for having sex with her cousin and his girlfriend.

Uncle Gustav said...

This is where Buñuel fully reveals his sentiments toward the poor and working class, holding them with the same contempt he displays for the affluent and well-heeled.

Thank you for joining the blogathon. I'm glad your post has inspired such good feedback.

Fox said...

I like your take on this, and it's a good lead in to the Faith & Film blog-a-thon you're hosting.

I've always taken Bunuel's goal with Viridian to be a scoffing at idealism.

Sometimes Bunuel cynicism disagrees with me, but I liked it in this film.

Anonymous said...

La Parodia de la imagen de la Ultima Cena es lo que produjo el rechazo de la Censura Española de 1961 (Ministerio de Arias Salgado)