The Gaze and the Virgin: Marian Dimensions of Luis Buñuel's Viridiana
journal contributionposted on 31.08.2018, 14:18 by Sheldon Penn
This essay presents a new interpretation of the surrealist representation of female gender and patriarchy in Viridiana (1961) focused through its semiotic treatment of the Virgin Mary. Examining the reconfiguration of the Christian story, Christ and Mary are revealed as ‘ghosted’ doubles of Fernando Rey and Silvia Pinal’s characters. Analysing the ‘Last Supper’ and suicide sequences with reference to Bataille’s Story of the Eye, I trace an explicitly cinematic interplay of Marian motherhood and castrating patriarchy organized via the gaze. Conclusions on female gender and motherhood build on that commentary, giving insight into Spanish psychosexual identity in the film. Drawing on Kristeva’s ‘Stabat Mater’, I argue that the film questions logocentricity paralleling her text’s confrontation of the Word of the Father with the eventhood of childbirth. The doubling of Viridiana and Mary gives a surrealist counter-reading to the film’s bleak diegetic treatment of the bind of woman in patriarchy.