Thursday, August 10, 2006



Dir: Luis Bunuel (The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie; That Obscure Object of Desire)

Satire about the complicated nature of charity and devotion, Bunuel's movie is frank about our outward desire to be good but our inner natures that drive us to sin.

A young woman on the verge of her solemn vows leaves the monestary to visit her uncle. The lonely and lecherous man, in his lonliness, propositions and attempts to rape her. After the uncle's suicide, she devotes herself to helping the poor, inviting them to live with her. Meanwhile, the Uncle's son takes possession of the house and pursues our heroine. Along the way, the devotion of young Viridiana is tempted by the presence of the charming man and the unruliness of her chosen flock.

None of these characters are purely good or evil. Viridiana is well intentioned but hopelessly naive. The Uncle is a predator but motivated from a deep and sympathetic melancholy. The son is a lothario but is wise. The beggars that are brought into the house are appreciative but unable to resist their inner shiftlessness and hedonism. They all mean well (in their own way) but all cause problems through their actions.

The movie is generally obtuse and metaphorical, inviting multiple meanings. Scenes dominate as opposed to lines of narrative. The best scene is near the end, when the beggars are left alone in the oppulent house and host their own dinner party. Free from imposed morality or authority, they comport themselves as they wish and have a party that I would have loved to attend. The enigmatic ending as well is tought provoking, almost shocking even by contemporary standards as to how Bunuel resolves the moral morass that Viridiana finds herself in.

The film is subversive in a way that most are afraid to be, a work of art that carries a potent political message. I wasn't blown away, but then these sorts of films tend not to do that for me. Characters here make points, they don't tell stories. It is an important film, a great film, but not a moving film.