Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert) Reviews

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February 15, 2017
Simon of the Desert clocks in at barely 45 minutes, but it's still a sufficient, strange allegory about spiritual devotion and principles, pious prejudice, sleaze, and worldly things.
March 22, 2015
An interesting look at the downsides of religious extremism.
October 28, 2014
Let me begin by saying it gets a 100% critical approval rating. I started watching this late last night but the moment it began my sleepiness went completely away. It was the same deep spiritual profundity i felt watching Dreyer's "Passion of Joan of Arc" that this film evoked. WTH is Bunuel doing with this film? How is it possible an atheist can create a work of art with this extreme level of spirituality?? So spiritual, it left me awestruck and drained , and it's only 45 minutes. Apparently, funding ran out so it could not be longer, but i think that just added to its intensity. Very loosely based on the life of St. Simon Stylites, is this film making fun of God, Jesus, all the saints and martyrs, past, present and future?? Maybe, perhaps, but i honestly think not. I think the bizarre ending is the key. Some will hate it, probably most people do, but the more i think about it , the more i smile.
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 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 Simón del Desierto 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 Catholic Church and his followers. What remains his most childish and immature project is The Milky Way, 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!), Simón del Desierto 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 The Milky Way (1969) and The Phantom of Liberty (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.


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, Black God, White Devil (1964) to the extent of even hiring him for a cameo appearance.
August 13, 2014
This films is Buñuel´s wit converging with typical mexican slang and humor, though Silvia Pinal´s personification of the devil sometimes reaches gloomy and perverse moments. His most mexican film.
May 22, 2014
Entertaining and funny at times with some cool surrealistic moments. But overall, the message didn´t connect with me, the ending was too abrupt and despite being only 45 minutes long, it was a bit too slow.
September 28, 2013
Sometimes the most natural human actions are viewed as unnatural by almost all religions. But eventually, as Simón, people tend to fall into temptation and pleasure. Buñuel in "Simón del Desierto" captures the absurdity of religious penitence and the prohibition of mundane pleasures in a short, concise, satirical style.
½ March 6, 2013
I had heard that this movie offered a critique of religion, but to my eye it offers no detectable stance on that or any other topic. "The Devil" is a vampish woman and Simon is her henpecked foil, a set-up that makes the movie feel a bit like a nightmare scene in a sitcom. It is mercifully short, but the twist ending offers no closure.
February 17, 2013
A short but intense film.
February 17, 2013
A powerful, surreal, troubling, funny, scathing fable of religious asceticism, ritual, temptation, and corruption from Bunuel. Typically brilliant.
February 14, 2013
SIMON OF THE DESERT is patched together from the fragments of a feature begun by Bunuel but cancelled mid-stream because of missing resources, and it shows. Even for a surrealist feature, it lacks coherence (yes, surrealist features have coherence... shut it) and is made up entirely of rough edges and unfinished ideas. But the Bunuelian dryness and wryness is still there, and the subtle lampooning of religious fanaticism is spot on. Yet it's not quite as damning a satire as, say, the secular DISCREET CHARM or EXTERMINATING ANGEL; its affection for Simon is real in spite of his delusion, and there's an odd sense of loss about him during the finale. Pier Paolo Pasolini once said that he was "an unbeliever with a profound nostalgia for belief". SIMON may reveal that to also be true of Bunuel... at least a little.
February 9, 2013
Simon del desierto its a... it is about... I don't know what I am saying but it is fun saying it. A social-commentary in all aspects of morality and human behavior; it is Brilliant for its sins. Incomplete? some say, it is incomplete, but just open you r mind to the possibilities, the messages, the ending... and you will understand that this film is not incomplete at all, just misunderstood. Luis Banuel is the father of surrealism. One watch is not enough, the next view of this masterpiece will be so much simple to understand, and the next, and the next and the next...and the message will be the same, and I may never get it. Hilarious and horrific, the Disco of Horrors that predicted the future
Super Reviewer
December 23, 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.
½ December 13, 2012
Had it not been for the brusque ending (apparently due to a lack of funding *sad face*), I'd call this a satire masterpiece of organized religion from Luis Bunuel. Quite funny, thought-provoking, with brilliant imagery, and a very entertaining 43 minutes! Thumbs up.
½ November 30, 2012
Surreal and satrical, but its too much of both for telling a religious tale.
November 20, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012

(1965) Simon Of The Desert
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

40 minute movie from surrealist writer/ director Luis Buñuel metaphor about a person who functions like a Jesus Christ type of character whose name is 'Simon' who while on top of a catacomb, he's then gets tempted by the devil posing a girl or other expressed through many people to give in means of temptation whether it's lust or food. Self-explannatory but very fact of the matter in terms of it's messages.

3 out of 4
½ October 19, 2012
A simple idea that doesn't seem like it would be able to carry past 10 minutes, but Bunuel keeps interest for 45. Simon's basically the most religious guy in the world that wasn't Jesus himself. He stays up on a column and prays to God so that he's a closer link to men. He's on a small column at first, then in the beginning is moved to a taller column. He never leaves either except for the cross between two. And Satan has decided he wants to tempt Simon and pull him away from God. Some people doubt Simon and others try to set him up as a fake. And when Simon feels like he falters (like letting Satan as a woman trick him into believing he's a holy man), he punishes himself by standing on one foot for an entire day. And in the end, I forget exactly what happens, but Satan takes Simon away and to 1960s New York to a club. When he says he wants to go back Satan says they already found another spiritual man to take his place. Is that the way the world works? One spiritual leader leaves and they get another to fill the void? Bunuel was a surrealist which means that not everything has a point, but I think the beauty of art is that it can turn out to mean something the author might not have originally intended. In modern day, dancing and going to clubs aren't thought of as a sin, but set against the 4th century these people are terrible heathens. It's funny to see the two time periods and beliefs juxtaposed. In "My Last Sigh," Bunuel clearly states that he's an atheist. If you ask me, he's just pointing out that people carry God through time and make him out to be whatever works for them. Whatever he was then isn't what he is now. What was once punishable by death would now kill every single person. A great short feature that's filled with dry comedy and interesting characters.
July 22, 2012
Bunuel looks at the fifth-century ascetic saint as only he can. Shortened in length for budgetary reasons I found the conclusion satisfying. Claudio Brook is excellent as Simon.
½ June 29, 2012
How sly and genius you are Mr. Bunuel. What a brilliant film, and only 45 minutes!
June 26, 2012
Silvia Pinal is delicious as the devil, my only complaint is that the film is too short.
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