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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Nazarín is a 1959 Mexican film directed by Luis Buñuel and co-written between Buñuel and Julio Alejandro, adapted from the eponymous novel of Benito Pérez Galdós. It won the international prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.


Padre Nazario is a Roman Catholic priest of Spanish heritage living austerely in a hotel on the poor side of town. He is of a quiet, temperate nature and carelessly gives away what little he has, to the point of not caring whenever his room is burgled. He demonstrates understanding and compassion for those he encounters, such as a woman living below him, Beatriz, who is plagued by psychotic episodes and thoughts of suicide, and has a troubled relationship with a man named Pinto.

One night, a prostitute, Andara, comes running into Nazario's room seeking shelter from the authorities; she has murdered another prostitute, Camella, and has herself been wounded in the fight. Padre Nazario withholds judgement about her guilt or innocence, and will help her—and not betray her—until she is found out. He tries to set her head straight and make her conscious of her guilt. Later Andara has a fevered dream in which she imagines that a portrait of Jesus Christ is laughing at her.

That night Beatriz comes and warns them that someone has tipped off the authorities. (Beatriz offers to hide them in her room, with the express intention that the police will have her (Beatriz) arrested and hanged). When the proprietress, Mrs. Chanfa, finds out what has transpired, she is adamant that Andara must not be discovered hiding with Father Nazario, and orders Andara to clean the room so that no one knows she was there.

But after Father Nazario steps out, Andara doesn't just clean the room: she gathers up the furniture into a big pile, pours gasoline all over it, sets it ablaze and makes her escape!

This episode puts Nazario afoul of the law and the church. He is warned that an investigation could cost him his ministry. Nazario is forced to go into hiding: he exchanges his frock for plain clothes and sets out to peregrinate the country. He plans to survive by begging.

On his way he encounters a rail-road construction crew, and offers to work for food. But some of the other workers resent his presence (perhaps surmising that they'll have to share the spoils of the work with this new-comer), and make it known that he is unwelcome. Nazario drops his work and walks off, having received nothing for his labors. But his departure sparks a deadly fight between the workers and the foreman. As Nazario walks away he hears gunfire in the distance.

In a small village Nazario runs across Beatriz, and reveals that all of his possessions have been stolen. She leads him to a house where he encounters the prostitute Andara as well as a sick girl. Convinced that he can perform miracles, the girl's mother begs Nazario to cure the girl. Nazario demurs and suggests they see a doctor instead, but offers to pray together with the women. But he is perturbed when the woman instead begin to perform superstitious rites.

However, the next day the girl's fever has subsided. Believing Nazario to be a miracle-worker and a saint, Andara and Beatriz insist on following him. But Nazario wants to be on his own.

Nazario later stops to help a Colonel, a Priest and a Lady as their horse has a broken leg. When a peasant passes by without acknowledging his two superiors, the Colonel yells at him for his discourtesy, despite the peasant's protestations that he merely didn't see them. After the peasant leaves, Nazario gives the Colonel a severe dressing down for his rudeness. The Colonel tries to pull his gun on Nazario, but is stopped by the Priest, who merely excuses Nazario as "a heretic, an erratic preacher" who should be left alone.

But Nazario is still being followed by Beatriz and Andara, whom he reluctantly agrees to let accompany him, although he lectures them sternly about God. The three end up in a plague-ridden village, where Nazario offers help. They do what they can, but their services are ultimately rejected by one dying woman, who would rather have the comfort of her husband that a priest (a scene inspired by the Marquis de Sade's Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man). Father Nazario is overcome by a feeling of failure.

They go begging in another village, and Andara catches the eye of a midget named Hugo, who professes his love despite telling her how ugly she is. In the same village, Beatriz is spotted by Pinto, who confronts her and accuses her of being nothing but "a priest's lover." Pinto demands that Beatriz leave with him the next day.

That night Nazario senses that something is the matter with Beatriz, and inquires into her troubles. He says that she is struggling with Satan but should resist temptation. When she asks how he was able to guess that something was wrong, Nazario responds, "It's not guessing, it's knowing."

The two are interrupted by Andara, who insists that they must flee immediately, before they are found out. Nazario responds calmly that only thieves flee, and that the divine will not forsake them. Beatriz tells Nazario how much she trusts him, and uses an allusion to the Christian bible: "If I can carry your load on my back, I will." Andara, for her part, accuses Nazario of loving Beatriz more, but he tries to demonstrate a Christian love for both women.

The next day the party is found out by a group of men who have been looking for them. Andara and Nazario are arrested and taken to jail, but Beatriz begs for his release. Pinto finds out what happened and says he will convince Beatriz's mother that Beatriz should go with him. Later, when Beatriz meets her mother, she sings Nazario's praises and speaks of his miracles. Her mother's response that Beatriz loves Nazario "like a man" sends the girl into another psychotic episode.

Nazario has it no better. He is tormented by his cellmates, who insult him and physically abuse him. Nazario suffers a crisis of faith, shouting, "For the first time in my life, I find it hard to forgive. But I forgive you. It is my Christian duty. But I also scorn you! And I feel guilty, not knowing how to separate scorn from forgiveness." One of the cellmates intervenes to protect Nazario, who ends up giving the man what remains of his money.

The next day the prisoners are led away. Nazario is accused of being insane, and contradicting the church. He is separated from the group and led away by a single guard. As he is being led away, Pinto and Beatriz pass by in a carriage, but without any sign of recognition. In the penultimate scene, Nazario and the guard pass by a woman selling fruit. The fruitseller offers Nazario a pineapple, saying, "Take this charity, and may God be with you." Nazario seems overcome with confusion and doubt. A loud drum-beat can be heard. At first he makes a motion of refusal, but then stops her, takes the pineapple and says, "May God repay you." He is led away with the pineapple under his arm, utterly distraught.


Parallelisms with Jesus Christ

The second half of the movie shares various parallels with the life and work of Jesus Christ:

  • Nazario peregrinates the land, performing "miracles" and aiding the needed.
  • He is joined by two women astounded by his miracles and wishing to do good, much like the apostles.
  • Nazario rouses scandal amidst the dogmatic religious because of his teaching and lifestyle.
  • The character of Beatriz represents Mary Magdalene since she is a follower and reluctant love interest of Nazario.
  • One of his "disciples" betrays the party and has them arrested in a garden, an event identical to Judas Iscariot's treason at the Garden of Gethsemane. Even Andara attempts to fight the soldiers and knocks one down with a branch, but is reprehended by Nazario and asked to follow suit. This closely parallels Peter's maiming of a soldier with his sword and Jesus reprehending him and asking him not to put up a fight.
  • Both Nazario and Jesus are sent to prison, tortured, offered a chance to escape and forced to wear a mock crown of some sort.
  • Both Nazario and Jesus are forced to march through torture and humiliation to their deaths.
  • Also marching to their deaths are two thieves, one of whom is 'bad' and humiliates Nazario, and one of whom is 'good' and who helps him.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nazarín" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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