Tristana (film)

Tristana is a 1970 drama film directed by Luis Buñuel, based on the 1892 novel of the same name by Benito Pérez Galdós. The film stars Catherine Deneuve and Fernando Rey and was shot in Toledo, Spain. The voices of French actress Catherine Deneuve and Italian actor Franco Nero were dubbed to Spanish. Tristana is an international co-production between Spain, France and Italy.[4]

Spanish theatrical release poster
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onTristana
by Benito Pérez Galdós
CinematographyJosé F. Aguayo
Edited byPedro del Rey
  • Talía Film
  • Época Film
  • Selenia Cinematografica
  • Les Films Corona
Distributed by
  • Mercurio Films S.A. (Spain)
  • Valoria Films (France)[1]
  • Dear Film (Italy)
Release date
  • 29 March 1970 (1970-03-29) (Spain)[2]
  • 29 April 1970 (1970-04-29) (France)[1]
  • 27 August 1970 (1970-08-27) (Italy)
Running time
100 minutes
  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy
Box office$3.3 million[3]


The story is set in the late 1920s to early 1930s. Tristana is a young woman who, following the death of her mother, becomes a ward of nobleman don Lope Garrido. Don Lope falls in love with her and thus treats her as wife as well as daughter from the age of 19. But, by age 21 Tristana starts finding her voice, to demand to study music, art and other subjects with which she wishes to become independent. She meets the young artist Horacio Díaz, falls in love, and eventually leaves Toledo to live with him.

When she falls ill, she returns to don Lope. The illness results in her losing a leg, which changes her prospects; here, the film substantially varies from the novel. Don Lope inherits money from his sister, Tristana eventually marries him, and, when don Lope is ill, Tristana finishes him off by feigning calling the doctor and opening the window to the winter cold.

Differences from the novel

In the novel, Tristana resignedly marries don Lope in order for him to receive his inheritance. Also different from the novel is Saturno's increased role—barely mentioned in the novel, he is Tristana's third love interest in the film.



Buñuel first began working on Tristana in 1962 after Spanish censors rejected his script Secuestro. Buñuel suggested adapting Benito Pérez Galdós's novel instead to his producers at Epoca and was paid $30,000 to write the screenplay. Buñuel and Julio Alejandro wrote the script in December 1962 and updated the novel's setting to the period between the late 1920s to early 1930s. Buñuel and Epoca submitted their script to the Spanish censors in the spring of 1963, hoping to begin shooting in the summer. At the last minute, the Ministry of Culture rejected the script because of its depiction of duelling and Buñuel made Diary of a Chambermaid instead.[5]

In December 1968, Buñuel decided to return to Spain after being allowed back into the Catholic Church. When he returned, producers from Epoca approached him about reviving Tristana. Buñuel was initially uninterested and wanted to instead film his script for The Monk, which would have starred Jeanne Moreau, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif.[6] But producers at Epoca managed to find funding from Italian and French investors and secure the newly built Siena Studios in Madrid, convincing Buñuel to agree to the project. Buñuel and Alejandro quickly finished their fourth draft of the screenplay.[7]

Buñuel wanted Tristana to be his triumphant return to Spain after living in Mexico for several decades and worked hard on the film. Buñuel travelled to Spain in the spring of 1969 to begin work on the film, and was immediately sidetracked by the Spanish censors. Spain's Franco government made it difficult for the notorious and outspoken atheist Buñuel to get his films approved. However, Minister of Information Manuel Fraga Iribarne was known to be more liberal than past Ministers and told Buñuel that he would approve the script only if Buñuel promised to not change the script during the film's shooting. Buñuel refused, stating that the script was merely a blueprint. Eventually Buñuel got his and Fraga's mutual friend Rafael Mendez to act as a go-between and convince Fraga to approve the script.[7]

Buñuel's French investors insisted that Catherine Deneuve be cast as Tristana and his Italian investors wanted young heartthrob Franco Nero to play Horacio. Filming began in September 1969. Actress Vanessa Redgrave was often on the film's set after recently divorcing Tony Richardson for Nero, which caused Nero to often be late or distracted during filming. The film's plot has many similarities to Buñuel's earlier film Viridiana and the character of Don Lope is partially based on Buñuel's father, who was also a "señorito (an adult who never worked a day in his life but lives comfortably, or even luxuriously, thanks to an inheritance). Buñuel based much of Tristana's schoolgirl innocence on memories of his younger sister Conchita.[8]


It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film[9] and screened out of the main competition at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival.[10]

See also


  1. "Tristana de Luis Buñuel (1970)". UniFrance. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  2. "Tristana". SensaCine. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  3. "Tristana (1970)". Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  4. "Tristana". Lumiere. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  5. Baxter, John. Buñuel. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.. 1994. ISBN 0-7867-0506-X. pp. 266.
  6. Baxter. pp. 291.
  7. Baxter. pp. 292.
  8. Baxter. pp. 293.
  9. "The 43rd Academy Awards (1971) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-26.
  10. "Festival de Cannes: Tristana". Retrieved 2009-04-11.
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