Friday, October 23, 2009

Simon of the Desert(1965): the triumph of flesh

Director: Luis Bunuel; language: Spanish; duration:45 minutes

This is based on the life Simon who lived in the sixth century CE and is said to have spent a number of years on top of a tower as a penance. The director of this film was against institutionalised religion and the present anti-climactic short film may be taken as a vicious attack on religious hypocrisy. It also underlines the vanity, masochism and selfishness which underlies ascetism.

The movie starts with Simon performing a miracle wherein an amputee's hands are restored. The first use he makes of his hands is to slap his son.

At various other times we see him chastising  people for their lack of piety. He even refuse to respond to his mothers love who lodges herself near the tower.

His own self immolation seems severe as he goes for days without food and water, living on next to nothing. His singleminded sincerety is beyond doubt.

On various occasions he is visited by the devil assuming the shape of a young and beautiful woman trying to distract him from his austerities. In her final visit we find the she-Satan climbs atop the mendicant's tower trying to lure him into sensuality.

In a sudden turn we see a flying aeroplane and then we are transported to a modern disco club where we find Simon and the she Satan dancing vigorously. And then he is sitting smoking a cigar as the film comes to an end.

It is a powerful attack on the clergy indicating that below the cloak things are very much the same if not worse. Bunuel ridicules religious posturing, the insincerity and falseness of religious professionals, the lack of genuine humanity which is buried deep in it, even the best kind.

And the beast cannot be exterminated, not even by standing on towers for decades. You can only shove it beneath the surface, thence sharpening his teeth all the more.

Humanity lies not in the extermination of the animal aspect but in it's civilisation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bunuel is Bunuel. One of the most underrated of the great directors.