Olvidados, Los: Bunuel’s Unrelenting Chronicle of Poverty and Juvenile Crime

Luis Bunuel’s “Los Olvidados” is a brutal, unrelenting film about poverty and juvenile crime in the slums of Mexico City.

The style of the film is semi-documentary, defined by meticulous attention to realism and unquestioned fidelity to the facts.

Though Los Olvidados is set in Mexico City, Bunuel stressed the film’s universality in the opening shots, tilting over the Eiffel Tower and the Big Ben on the Thames.

Bunuel has deliberately avoided offering a clear point of view for the squalid, depressing tale, letting the grim facts speak for themselves. For his film, he had assembled some poverty-stricken delinquent and lost children and parents of degraded morals and placed them in a vicious and often shocking circumstances of violence and melodrama.

The visual details of poverty and crime are gruesome to watch, such as the vicious badgering of a blind beggar, the ruthless beating of a cripple by a gang

Mainstream critics like the N.Y. Times Bosley Crowther wrote:
“Why there should be this wild coincidence of evil and violence is not explained, nor is any social solution even hinted, much less clarified.”

The forward merely states that the correction of problems of poverty and delinquency is left to the “progressive forces” (whatever they are) of our times.

Like Bunuel’s earlier documentary, “Las Hurdes,” this film is based on facts gathered from reformatory files.

Ultimately, Bunuel film is a devastating account of outcasts doomed by a society too naive and indifferent to meet the needs of “the wretched of the earth.”

In its initial release in the U.S., the film was titled “The Young and the Damned.”