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Mexico, 1959 (MIFF 1961, Programme 4)

Director: Luis Buñuel

Luis Bunuel's film is a kind of summary of his style and his ideas. It is a truly great film. John Huston called it a masterpiece on the level of Bicycle Thieves, Bardem declares that its final scene is "the densest, most profound and disturbing scene m the history of the cinema". It is the story of a disenchantment, of doubt and faith, unfolded with poetic beauty and angry rebellion; the story of a man whose ideals of Christianity soon and inevitably oppose him to the church, to the law, to society at large.

Nazarin is a humble young priest who lives in a sordid inn. It is the Mexico of 1900, the era of Porfirio Diaz, whose oligarchic powers are suggested through the deliberately sombre atmosphere of the film. Finding himself cheated by two women, Njiarin is forced to abandon the inn and to travel, like Don Quixote, trying to be good and kind to the whole world. In ihe beginning, Nazarin amplified to the maximum his scale of values. Good and evil are, for him, perfectly defined. Bunuel takes this man and confronts him with reality.

Throughout the film — which is full of scenes of the most concentrated fury — we follow the "madman's" cure. Or more accurately, his torture. During all the incidents that take place in the mountains and villages, as the image of Christ begins to pale in Nazarin's conscience, there arises another image: that of man. Gradually, the director leads us through a series of episodes to a double evolution. the disintegration of the divine illusion and the discovery of man's reality.

Finally, when Nazarin first refuses aims but then, after a moment of doubt, finally accepts them — no longer as charity but as friendship then Nazarin the lonely one, abandons his solitude: he has lost God but found brotherhood. The double beat on the drums during (he film's last scene symbolizes the Calvary ahead of Nazarin, Calvary which awaits not Only thoie who have faith but those who rebel against it - those who acquire the new type of faith represented by rebellion.

Bunuel has lost nothing of his old violence of protest. The fury is, it anything, more concentrated than in his earlier films, shouting, with a poetry of horror, for the need for love and human pity.

See also...


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