Viridiana leaves her cloistered world and tastes the bitter poison of human behavior where jealousy, oppression, and violence are served in excremental portions at the Last Supper.
Director Luis Buñuel dissects both the Catholic Church and social hierarchy, flaying the body politic to reveal the cancerous malignancy whose corruption is infectious. The film begins with a gothic feel, much like Brontë’s JANE EYRE, where the ghosts of the past echo sadly through the corridors of a lonely mansion. Viridiana is a virginal bride of Catholicism betrothed to the church: her oath relegates her to a slave of poverty, chastity, and unquestioning obedience. She is summoned by her estranged uncle to his estate where she discovers the lustful truth of desire, victim of an old man’s desperate wish to regain his past…by raping her virtue. She soon realizes that her religious artifacts offer no protection and that she is wholly (holy) unprepared for the real world, and believing herself penetrated by despair and guilt, she decides to never return to the convent.
Through this awakening, Viridiana seeks comfort in helping the poor and unfortunate wretches who haunt the village’s periphery, giving them shelter with her inheritance. She spurns Mother Superior and asks for forgiveness, but it’s the Church who should be reaching out to help: here, Buñuel depicts the spiritual heresy of Christianity as a pious woman who offers good deeds is rejected by the very god that died promoting these values. But the streetwise beggars are no division of angels, pugnaciously reveling in the wealth denied them but feel is rightfully theirs by default: their tumorous microcosm depicts the salacious and guttural aspect of humanity as a whole.
Buñuel reveals these scoundrels not as victims of societal ills but as a choice of lifestyle, focusing upon their lackadaisical attitudes and selfish needs wanting everything for free: they have the chance to work in the fields and earn a living but instead choose to exist on handouts, to take advantage of Viridian’s good nature. Indeed, she paves the road to hell with her good intentions. Her morals clash with the self-reliant and handsome Jorge, a man who feeds his desires and sexual appetites with material gain, as he is the only one who begins to accomplish his goals and till the estate’s fertile fields…as he wishes to till hers. But the beggars become choosers and their final lesson is in destruction and anarchy, an orgy of debauchery that Buñuel frames as a dank reflection of Christ’s Last Supper, and Viridiana becomes the delectable dessert. Buñuel allows his heroine to shed her bad habit and become a woman, her life now a shuffling deck of cards in a game of chance.
Final Grade: (B+)