During his period of filmmaking in Mexico, Luis Buñuel explored the outer reaches of his efforts to satirize Christianity. Nazarin is the firmly tongue-in-cheek story of a defrocked priest who wanders through the barrios of Mexico, recruits a motley flock of disciples, and ends up exiled in the desert. Buñuel's purpose was to show how a literal interpretation of Christ's teaching would make a believer in modern society into a lunatic. Church leaders at first were unsure how to respond; the international Catholic cinema office considered giving it their prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Later films, such as Viridiana and Simon of the Desert, in which Buñuel further developed the themes of Nazarin, made more obvious his intent, which was to defrock organized religion as a form of institutional power. Nazarin has an elegant, almost poetic simplicity, unusual for Buñuel, yet it is also rich and complex in exploring fundamental questions about the human condition.
by Michael Betzold review