Out of the handful of Buñuel films I’ve seen, I’ve really liked some and been totally baffled by others, but I rarely feel like I totally *get* them on a first watch. In one sense, Viridiana feels a little more straight-forward – it doesn’t have the overtly surrealist flair of Un chien andalou or The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, nor the formal experimentation of That Obscure Object of Desire. That said, it’s meant to be a “satire” and a “religious comedy” and I’m sure I didn’t get all the nuances of that aspect of the film.
Viridiana is a novitiate about to take her vows when she gets invited to her uncle’s for a final visit; she doesn’t want to go, but her mother superior insists. While there, her uncle asks her to marry him, then almost rapes her, and that’s only the first section of the movie. The second section has her trying to help out a bunch of poor, diseased, and indigent folks and getting the opposite of thanks in return (and another rape attempt). If ever there were an argument for staying in the nunnery, this seems like it, but I’m not at all sure that’s what Buñuel was going for! There are a lot more religious aspects to the film, including a Sermon on the Mount-esque prayer session with Viridiana, and notably a Last Supper recreation with all the outcasts, so there’s something deeper than my admittedly sleepy first watch could grasp. Something I’ll have to read up on and rewatch with fresher eyes.