August 8, 2014 Leave a comment
This is a challenging film, and I can’t claim a partiality for being challenged, preferring to feel inspired by articulate clarity. Still, whereas Under The Skin is a film that provoked too little (I do think that is a film I’ll have to go back to), Viridiana provoked quite a bit, but the pieces don’t go together snugly.
The first half, where Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) visits her uncle and benefactor Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), seems like a pretty clear condemnation of the Catholic Church and probably Franco Spain’s patriarchy. When Viridiana subsequently takes up the mission of direct service to those in need, it seems to be an act castigating organized Christianity for its failure to remain committed to the true purpose. This is all very interesting but the turn taken in the second half leaves me unsettled, both in interpretation and in part because the second half gets a bit anarchic and disrupts my desire for order. Is this chaos a warning of what would happen if Franco were to lose power? This kind of pro-authoritarian statement hardly seems the kind that Bunuel would make. Alternatively, maybe it is casting further doubt on the entire notion of self-sacrifice or even charity. An ending that hints at the sexual revolution of the late 60s and perhaps a rise of hedonistic approaches may well confirm this. It makes for a coherent through-line, though a somewhat depressing one that makes me feel less engaged.
As a film to spark discussion (and I hope we get a couple people watching this month such that we might get a spoiler thread going) it is quite well enough. It does feel a bit like a film where the discussion is more rewarding than the actual film. Even as I was intrigued by the ideas I wasn’t actually that invested in the story or the characters and didn’t feel in awe of the filmmaking in any notable way. This fits into a type of viewing of which I’m certainly appreciative, but not something that would lodge the film among those I champion myself.