Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert)

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Total Count: 15


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Movie Info

Forty minutes is more than enough screen time for Spanish director Luis Buñuel to state his case in Simon of the Desert. Claudio Brook portrays fifth-century Christian Simon (later St. Simon Stylites) who dispenses religious sagacity while standing on a tall column in the middle of the desert. Typical of Buñuel's hatred of the Church, the Devil (Silvia Pinal) is a far more entertaining and articulate spokesperson for his point of view than Simon is for Christianity. An abrupt, ill-suited ending suggests that Buñuel either tired of the subject and wanted to move on to other things, or that he ran out of money and had to wrap before the process servers showed up. This Mexican film was originally titled Simon del Desierto. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert)

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (15)

Audience Reviews for Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert)

  • Sep 06, 2014
    Loosely based on the real story Saint Simeon Stylites, a 5th Century Syriac ascetic saint who achieved fame for living 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria, Buñuel's <i>Simón del Desierto</i> has been a film long-discussed regarding its possible implications and allegorical conclusion when, in fact, Buñuel ran out of funds and was forced to end the film abruptly. It does feel butchered regarding the scope of his intentions. It has been written that "an abrupt, ill-suited ending suggests that Buñuel either tired of the subject and wanted to move on to other things, or that he ran out of money and had to wrap before the process servers showed up." The first interpretation is ridiculous; analyzing his body of work, it is clear that he never left a project unfinished. His increasingly scatological satirical criticisms of the Church became each time more aggressive and never felt uninterested; after all, Buñuel was a poor, hypocritical frustrated man that constantly wanted to use cinema as a psychological means to, at least partially, get rid of the resulting emotional, religion-related frustrations that assaulted him since his childhood because of his harsh Catholic-based upbringing, thus directing cinematic statements in a maybe unconscious attempt to justify his own lack of comprehension and egotistical superficial claimings against a metaphysical life that he could never understand and thus assumed as false and non-existent. But he is a cinematic genius, so those two traits of him should be considered as mutually exclusive when analyzing his feature-length masterpieces from an objective, and still artistic point of view. Simon is a VISUAL spoof of Jesus Christ, including the temptations that Christ had in the desert from the Devil, which are partially emulated in the same order here. As blasphemous as that sounds, I find that hilarious. However, he makes the wise decision of remaining neutral towards the character of Jesus Christ and instead uses him as a mockery of the Church, which fully criticizes the traits of this mammoth-like institution that even I as a Christian repulse. Normally, this is the film credited to be his most scandalous mockery at religion, but I disagree. One thing is to mock at a religion, and another one to mock at the <b>Catholic</b> Church and his followers. What remains his most childish and immature project is <i>The Milky Way</i>, where he takes a look at believers of any Bible-related doctrine as... well... stupid people devoid of any rational capacity, which in itself is a stupid thing to do, like Buñuel clearly was. Here, he still didn't make that mistake and decided to reference the idolatry that people are capable of having towards any person that can draw a significant amount of inspiration comparable to the stereotypical image that modern society has assigned to Jesus Christ. Here, Buñuel laughs at the futility of miracles, references the factual ignorance that the modern Catholic institution has towards the meaning of particular verses of the Scriptures (that Christ himself condemned in the Gospels against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees), and makes a satirical contrast between the blind "saintliness" of the early centuries of mankind - which of course still resonates today with fundamentalist doctrines - and the self-destructive, twist-dancing and rock-inspired trends of modernity. Or why would Simon say: "I just realized I don't know the meaning of what I am saying", after uttering Catholic prayers and words in Latin? That's the epitome of religions based on deeds, which God rejects, instead of faith (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Less harmful than I was led to believe but epically controversial given its time (and the religious censors of the 60s!), <i>Simón del Desierto</i> is an unfortunately unfinished project featuring marvelous visuals and a magnificent camerawork by Gabriel Figueroa, with an unforgettable performance of Silvia Pinal as "The Devil", who is still today one of the most renowned Mexican actresses in the industry. In my reviews of <i>The Milky Way</i> (1969) and <i>The Phantom of Liberty</i> (1974) I mentioned the obvious influence I perceived Buñuel had over the Monty Python crew (I later confirmed this perception through interviews and was proved right), but now I consider this "short" effort as the earliest possible influence before Buñuel hit French territory once again. 94/100 P.S. P.S. Keep an eye out for Brazilian master Glauber Rocha as one of the monks! Buñuel himself was inspired to make this film by one of his films, <i>Black God, White Devil</i> (1964) to the extent of even hiring him for a cameo appearance.
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 22, 2012
    Rating: 4 stars Arthouse Rating: 3.5 stars If church isn't enough to convince you of the high absurdity of religious fanaticism, then watch Simon of the Desert. Filmed by Luis Bunuel in Mexico, the film takes religious text of bible, and shows it when worshiped as truth. It could've showed the more genocidal and hellish acts depicted as "good deeds", but instead it brings the parts that make the bible (or more the worshipers) a laughing stock. It's much more than a mockery though. It's a story of obsession, spirituality, and self inflicted misery. The film has been overshadowed over the years, but I encourage a watch of this satire. It left a surreal feeling on me, it's a great perspective on excessive spirituality.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2012
    Luis Buñuel is a real creator, not a follower! That is why I love his work so much... and this is another fine example how he creates. He actually wrote the novel and then he adapted it with help of his friend Julio Alejandro. The novel and this 1965 film were loosely based on the story of the ascetic 5th-century Syrian saint Simeon Stylites, who lived for 39 years on top of a column. On the screen we could enjoy again Silvia Pinal's and Claudio Brook's great acting. Buñuel was never a great friend of Vatican and when in 1960 he returned to his home country Spain after a long-term exile in Mexico in order to direct Viridiana , didn't take long for him to be on the black list again! The film scandalized the Vatican and the government, which prompted Buñuel into a second exile back to Mexico. In Mexico he could freely direct The Exterminating Angel in 1962, and as well as Viridiana, the film was critical of religion. This movie, Simón del desierto was the last of the trilogy (using the same stars) and he keeps the controversial dealing with religion while still managing to keep the certain elements of his surrealist period. During the movie you could feel that the director caricatures Simon Stylites while admiring his reactions on some things he had to endure and see during his life... How many movies you've seen which will take you on a surrealistic trip in which the main character resists Satan's lures, performs a miracle and garbles some prayers but ending in a swinging discothèque with no option to escape this futuristic word in which he was thrown until the end!? You can enjoy the official 42 minutes (actually my version was 45 with all the credits) of unusual story with beautiful black-and-white photography by Gilbert Figueroa... and think while you're doing it!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 21, 2008
    delirious tale of a mystic who lives on a pillar in the desert and is repeatedly tempted by satan. only about 45 mins long and yes it is very funny in a satirical way tho it feels somewhat incomplete
    Stella D Super Reviewer

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