Luis Buñuel

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David Robinson

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 461

Viridiana still speaks as loud and as clear and with the same voice as L'Age d'Or, still asserting sanity and cleanliness in a world whose nature is to be mad and filthy. If there has been a change in the thirty years between [the two films], it is that the Swiftian fury of L'Age d'Or has given place to a calmer philosophic clowning, as cool and therefore as deadly as Voltaire. (p. 116)

Viridiana's picture of mankind does not present a very flattering image of God. Buñuel depicts men's viciousness in terms that are no less direct and no more amiable that those of L'Age d'Or. If there is a hero at all it is Jorge, who lives positively and (as a good surrealist) according to the dictates of desire. Yet one feels that Buñuel does not prefer him to the others—even to Don Ezekiel, the vicious little clown always good for a laugh and ready to cause trouble, or to the odious man with diseased hands (has he really venereal disease, or is it just the fallacy of the good that disease is the visitation of the wicked?) who repays Viridiana's kindness by abetting her rape.

The film's total effect is invigorating rather than depressing because Buñuel values them all alike as men, and likes them all because they are funny and human. (p. 117)

Other men might be affected to pity by this picture of rot and corruption. But for Buñuel pity implies resignation, and resignation defeat….

Buñuel admits no pity; and no panaceas. Nor does he accept the panaceas that are offered elsewhere. He is set, as he has always been set, against the soporifics of conventional morality and conventional sentimentality….

Viridiana's Christianity is destined to failure. Paradoxically it is her very piety which corrupts corruption. As in Nazarin, one feels at the end that there has been an atonement of man to man: Viridiana seems nearer salvation in human contact than in divine service….

The film's rich atmosphere is built out of images which are nothing if not surrealist: Viridiana's sleep-walking, ashes on the bed, dreams of black bulls and so on. Buñuel gives free play to his own private fetishisms….

The real marvel of Buñuel is that he has the technical mastery to fulfil his ideas and his poetry. (p. 118)

With Buñuel, one never feels that technique is something interposed between conception and execution. Problems of mise en scène seem to have no more existence for him than do problems of technique in a sketch by Picasso or Goya. (p. 155)

David Robinson, "'Thank God—I Am Still an Atheist': Luis Bunuel and 'Viridiana'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1962 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 31, No. 3, Summer, 1962, pp. 116-18, 155.

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