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note: also appears in part on The Student Room and Flixster
Un Chien Andalou is a masterwork of abstract cinema, made in 1928 by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. The film is a rare unpretentious part of abstract cinema - it doesn't have any sort of loftier ideals - it was simply composed as a cinematic experiment to see what sort of interpretations people would themselves bring to the table. It also subverted the common film form at the time with tricky jump-cutting and a seemingly incomprehensible narrative that has inspired artists such as David Lynch without a doubt.
Bunuel and Dali wrestled constantly over what to put into the film, but there is one famous sequence that is widely known even to those who've not seen the film - a woman has her eyeball cut open with a razorblade, an image still disturbing some 81 years later. Although a cow's eyeball was in fact used for the film, it's frighteningly realistic for a film so seemingly primitive to us now, and utterly gut-wrenching upon first viewing (and subsequent ones also!)
Film theorists for years have attempted to analyse the film and make sense of it with popular psychologists such as Freud and Jung, Marx, Russian formalist theory and countless others, but the beauty of the film is that every interpretation is right - it simply inspires debate rather than says anything on its own terms, and even ultimately asks what the point is in us trying to find meaning in something that may very well just be a smattering of random images? As far as cinematic philosophy goes, this is the cream of the crop.
Altogether, Un Chien Andalou is a difficult and challenging work for modern cinemagoers - it's not easy to call the film enjoyable, but at the same time it's sure to fascinate cineastes, and delivers a geninely disturbing image that's not easy to forget.
It has been said that one should not attempt to understand this film, but simply watch. Un chien andalou is a highly strange surrealist film with some disturbing and confusing imagery. There are no doubt countless psychosexual and otherwise readings of this film, and whilst much of its impact is lost near-80 years on, it's still an important film.
The writers of the film wanted Un Chien Andalou to work against the traditions of mainstream cinema, and to challenge the viewer's perceptions of reality. Both Buñuel and Dalí were interested in psychoanalysis and notions of the unconscious mind, with Un Chien Andalou they were attempting "...to disrupt the mental anxiety of the spectator..." (Dali)
Although Un Chien Andalou is clearly a bizarre and 'surreal' film, sections of it remain in keeping with the conventions employed in traditional narrative cinema.
The lack of narrative, or at least the lack of a coherent narrative, in Un Chien Andalou is reminiscent of the unfolding of a dream. Not everything in Un Chien Andalou can be explained and situations can change completely and irrationally in an instant, for example a character may suddenly appear in an entirely new location for no apparent reason. In dreams we accept that not everything will make sense, everyday things will be distorted, time will not be relevant, extraordinary situations will be commonplace and so on, it is the same with surrealist films; they defy logic.
By being 'surreal' Un Chien Andalou immediately falls outside the bracket of 'mainstream film'. Mainstream notions of narrative tend not to be concerned with anything other than reality and that which is easily definable through experience, identification, familiarity.
Un Chien Andalou challenges this. It is concerned with the unconscious mind and examples of this might be: irrational - a man dressed as a woman choosing to dismount his bike by letting it slow down and then falling off onto a pavement; excessive - slicing a woman's eye open with a razorblade; grotesque - mutilated donkey carcasses hanging out of grand pianos; libidinal - a man groping a woman's breasts (or perhaps buttocks).
The last example may allude to unconscious desires. First of all the man is fondling the clothed woman's breasts, then, through editing, the woman's upper body appears naked. The man rolls his head back as if in ecstasy as he fondles the naked breasts which then turn into naked buttocks before he is pushed away. It could be that the audience is seeing what the character desires; his repressed thoughts are being visualised, by both himself and the filmmakers.
No matter how much Un Chien Andalou is analysed nobody will ever fully understand it, because it contains scenes and images which are essentially nonsensical. The components of the film do not fit neatly together to provide a unified whole which carries a message and/or contains a clear meaning.
It is surreal because it is more closely linked with dream imagery than reality; any messages it does carry are the result of a confusion of distorted images and concepts which are typical of those conjured up by the unconscious mind during sleep.
The film plays with the audience in terms of upsetting the usual temporal structure of film; time in the film seems irrelevant. The viewer can never be sure when the events in the film are supposed to have taken place, or in what order. Inter-titles, usually considered as a means of relating a relevant piece of information to the viewer, appear to be employed merely to cause confusion. At one point an inter-title reads 'Seize ans avant' (translated in English as Sixteen years before) but the scene seems to contradict this, with the same two men, dressed the same, in the same room, in the same positions as in the shot preceding the inter-title. This illogical use of time goes against that which is generally presented in mainstream film, the use of inter-titles in Un Chien Andalou is almost a sarcastic stab at the conventional use of text in films at the time. It could also be seen as foregrounding the mechanics of film-making. This scene also includes a jump cut which, again, distorts time. The jump cut occurs where one character (the bicyclist) is holding two books which suddenly change to guns. This is not something which could happen instantly in reality, we have seen something occur which our minds cannot justify.
As well as the manipulation of time, Un Chien Andalou also includes scenes where space does not function as it does in the reality we are used to. For example in one scene a character is shot within the confines of a normal four walled room, but instead of falling to the floor in the room, we see the man fall down in a countryside location, onto a naked woman near a lake. This is very disorientating through its unpredictability and abnormal use of space.
It has been suggested that when Buñuel and Dalí were writing the film they were very much influenced by their own dreams and that they may also have experimented with 'automatic writing', whereby spontaneity and the unconscious mind provide the concepts.
Regardless of whether the writing of the film was 'spontaneous' or 'automatic', the actual production of the film must have been far more calculative. Un Chien Andalou has been carefully constructed to appear dreamlike and surreal, as with a Dalí painting, the concept may have appeared in his mind in a flash of inspiration, but many hours of meticulously committing brushstrokes to canvas would follow before the vision would be realised and reproduced for others to experience.
Un Chien Andalou in some ways remains in keeping with traditional films. The sets look real, the people are real; there are no bizarrely painted sets (like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)) or over-sized props etc. A lot of the situations themselves could occur in real life, it is the way they are presented and the way they are dealt with by the characters within the film which make them surreal. It is possible (unlikely, but possible) that two pianos with donkeys in them could be in a room, but would a sane person attempt to drag them across the room at a frightened woman? A less possible scenario involves the man wiping his mouth then revealing it has disappeared and where his mouth was there appears to be a wad of hair. It is suggested that this is the lady's armpit hair, she checks her armpit and is shocked but by no means awestruck or horrified. She looks at the man with contempt, as though she is irritated with him, but she does not question how he has done what he has done. Her reaction is to poke her tongue out at the man and leave the room.
Throughout the film the characters take within their strides occurrences which the viewer is constantly questioning and curious about. Events which in reality would be extremely strange, if not impossibilities, are presented as everyday, unremarkable actions.
So, not only does Un Chien Andalou consist of familiar and realistic settings: a bedroom, a street, a beach etc, but it also makes use of conventional, therefore familiar, methods of filming. Again, these methods are carefully deployed and by using these techniques the film does not appear to be too radical until the rules are broken. Shot/reverse shots are used regularly, dissolves, un-alarming framing and so on, but then a jump cut, erratic change of setting, super imposition or montage sequence will break away from the traditional cinematic conventions.
At times the film progresses just like a mainstream film, there are sporadic conventional narrative sequences, but any discernible narrative gets pushed aside in favour of haphazard sequences of events taking place in ambiguous spaces and an uncertain timeframes.
It was the intention of Buñuel and Dalí to create a piece of cinema that provoked its audience and questioned the conventions of film. According to the two writers the film should not be analysed too deeply because there is nothing to analyse, they insisted the concepts on display in Un Chien Andalou have no meaning or significance worth reading into. Luis Buñuel was unimpressed with the importance which many viewers attached to his film and its separate components.
"Un Chien Andalou" is a completely baffling experience from two master surrealists. Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel collaborated on a film that introduced the world to surrealist filmmaking. Of course avant-garde films were made before these two Spanish nutters came on the scene but Dali and Bunuel served surrealist cinema to a mainstream audience. On release the film caused outrage from the public and critics because it was blasphemous, violent and contained nudity. The film was given its world premiere in Paris and it was popular with artists and writers (as witnessed in Philip Kaufman's "Henry and June" when Henry Miller and Anais Nin watch it). The film follows a dream logic where things don't appear to have any meaning but you can interpret the film for yourself. Dali and Bunuel said that the film doesn't make any sense and there are no hidden meanings. Their follow up "The Golden Age" was banned in many countries and it was the last time Dali and Bunuel worked together. So who were these "Kings of Controversy"? I will give you some information before I review the film. Salvador Dali (1904-1989) This man was responsible for making surrealistic art popular (like Andy Warhol did with Pop Art). He was not really interested in filmmaking and after designing the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound" he didn't really work much in the medium apart from designing sets for "The Fantastic Voyage" in the late 1960's. He made adverts for chocolate and became a media celebrity. His paintings are bizarre and covered with religious metaphors and allegories. He died in 1989 after his bed caught fire and he suffered burns all over his body. He lived for a while but could not carry on. Salvador Dali met Luis Bunuel in Paris in the 1920's. Bunuel was interested in avant-garde films and they collabora
ted on two features "Un Chien Andalou" is a short film at around twenty-five minutes in length. With two films they shocked the world and ensured their place in cinema's "Hall of Fame". Luis Bunuel (1900-1983) Luis Bunuel is one of my favourite directors. He taught me (not personally of course) about cinema and its capabilities. Until I saw this man's films I still thought "The Running Man" was the greatest film ever. It was my first year of college and I was the always in the library watching films. I was that well known in the college library that everyone knew my name and the librarians must have secretly hated me for always asking for film book, films and being a general pest. I spent a lot of time between lessons in the audio booths watching as much as I could before I overdosed on cinema. Anyway back to the opinion. I was browsing one day in the film section and I saw a weird image. The image was in black and white and consisted of a man holding a razorblade to a woman's eyeball. It was a very striking picture, so I got the box down and read the cover it said "Un Chien Andalou". I went to the desk and the librarian gave me the video and I watched it. I was completely baffled so I watched it again and again and again (it is only twenty minutes long). I had never seen anything like it before in my life. For me up until that moment, cinema was Arnie and Sly kicking ass and saving the day. My real interest in cinema was born on that fateful day. No longer did I simply like films, I wanted to be a filmmaker and study it. Looking back now I always knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but this film gave the much-needed kick up the backside. The next year I enrolled on the Film Studies course and now I have an A level and I am off to study film at university. Luis Bunuel is still to this day considered to be the finest surrealist filmmaker ever.
David Lynch and David Cronenberg owe a lot to Bunuel. Bunuel was a very politically minded filmmaker and anti-Catholic. His films are full of verbal and visual assaults on the Church and corporate business. Bunuel is quietly mad were as Dali is brash and up-front. "Un Chien Andalou" is a mixture of both and you can easily spot "Dali moments" and "Bunuel moments". There was a big argument over who wrote the script. Dali claimed he wrote most of it and Bunuel says he did. Never mind it’s a great film regardless of who did what. Review "Un Chein Andalou" is bested summed up with my line: "It's just bloody weird". The film contains some truly striking images-ants crawling from a hole in a man's hand, a blind woman searching for a hand, two priests pulling a piano that contains a dead donkey that’s been nailed to the wood. My reading of the film is that it's genuinely about nothing. It's a dream and therefore it may have some Freudian value but I am not going to wrack my brain trying to find out. It's best off just watching the film for its brilliant film techniques and black humour. The film is wickedly funny (visually it is silent after all) and I would like to hear what any dooyoo members think of this gloriously wacky film. Bunuel as made better films than this "The Exterminating Angel" and "The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De La Cruz" but this has to rank as one of the best cinematic debuts ever. The film is the equivalent to an acid trip. The film's acting is also wonderfully over the top. I think it is a dig at melodramatic acting that is employed in cinema. The scene where the man chases his wife around the apartment is very funny. Bunuel explores the artificiality of cinema. Realism in cinema is constructed and people are tricked into thinking that what they are seeing i
s real instead of a constructed reality. Bunuel does this a lot with his films, he will have a scene where he takes away the illusion of cinema and exposes the unreal. Godard and many other "New Wave" directors use this, but Bunuel was one of the first filmmakers to do this. He was a very playful director and also quite vicious with his subject matter. Bunuel, was after all the director that made the lovely Catherine Denueve into a whore that is covered with excrement in "Belle du Jour". Also watch out for Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali playing multiple roles in the film. The film was made on a tight budget and they could not afford to hire enough actors. I hope after reading this review that you check the film out and Luis Bunuel's back catalogue because this film is unique and just about every other "weird" filmmaker or film as drawn inspiration from this fantastic and odd film. Sorry if my review is a little thin on the ground but it's a very hard film to describe. It's pure surrealist cinema and therefore open to interpretation. The films almost feels like a "stream of conscious" filmmaking. I believe they just stood around and dreamt up weird and wonderful images. The idea for the movie came from a dream Bunuel had. "Un Chien Andalou" is a masterpiece that is unrivalled even by David Lynch's "Eraserhead". I can understand that the film will only appeal to a niche audience but it’s still great. The film is a silent masterpiece that speaks volumes. I love this film.
?A surreal film takes one out of one?s conscious mind into the subconscious. Surrealism effects the emotions through the mind. One sees images and makes certain emotional connections in one?s mind. If the vision revealed is too much for the rational mind to absorb (too intense, too threatening, too real) yet cannot be rejected, then it leaves the consciousness and comes to exist on a sublime level as pure surrealism? It is with this words that Louis Bunuel?s Un Chien Andalu has often been described, he made it in collaboration with Salvador Dali in 1928. In order to better understand the film and the reasons for which it became such a landmark in film history we will first mention the cultural and historical background of the film, which I feel are crucial to the film?s nature. Dada was an early twentieth century art movement which ridiculed contemporary culture and traditional art forms and it was born as a consequence of the collapse during World War I of social and moral values which developed to that time. Ironically Dadaism was directed against art, particularly academic art, but also against the political society as a whole. The pamphlet Der Dada proclaimed the death of art and that Dada was politics. Less a style than a manifestation of the spirit of the times, Dadaists typically produced art objects in unconventional forms produced by unconventional methods; works of art, or anti-art, which were nihilistic or reflected a cynical attitude toward social values, and, at the same time, irrational, absurd and playful, emotive and intuitive. Many artists associated with this movement later became associated with Surrealism since Most Surrealists took part in Dada meetings. When Dada split into mini-groups, a single, compact Surrealist group formed. The headquarters of Surrealism, the Centrale Surrealiste, were established and from here was published on December 1, 1924 the "most shocking review in the world',
La revolution Surrealiste. French writer Andre Breton, surrealism?s founder (1896-1966), at first a Dadaist, who wrote three manifestos about Surrealism-- in 1924, 1930, and 1934, and opened a studio for "surrealist research, wrote referring to Dada ?Even the most revolutionary experiment in poetry under the capitalist regime having been incontestably, for France and perhaps for Europe the Dadaist-surrealist experiment, in that it has tended to destroy all the myths about art that for centuries have permitted the ideological as well as economic exploitation of painting, sculpture, literature, etc?This experiment can and should serve the cause of the liberation of the proletariat. It is only when the proletariat has become aware of the myths on which capitalist culture depends, when they have become aware of what these myths and this culture mean for them and have destroyed them, that they will be able to pass on to their own proper development. The positive lesson of this negating experiment, that is to say its transfusion among the proletariat, constitutes the only valid revolutionary poetic propaganda.? As we see the surrealists owed a lot to Dada and a number of technical resources and creative approaches applied by them were invented by the Dada movement, although surrealism emphasis was not on negation but on positive expression. Surrealism is a twentieth century avant-garde art movement which was defined by Andre Breton on his first manifesto as : ?SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express, verbally, in writing, or by other means, the real process of thought. Thought's dictation, in the absence of all control exercised by the reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations. ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests in the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association neglected heretofore; in the omnipotence of the dream and in the disinterested play of thought. It ten
ds definitely to do away with all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in the solution of the principal problems of life.? Surrealism was flourishing in Europe between World Wars I and II and Several artists belonged to the group such as Aragon, Baron, Boiffard, Breton, Carrive, Crevel, Delteil, Desnos, Eluard, Gérard, Limbour, Malkine, Morise, Naville, Noll, Péret,Picon, Soupault, Vitrac, Bunuel and Dali and many others. Those artists were stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions. According to the major spokesman of the movement, the poet and critic André Breton, who published "The Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in an absolute reality, a surreality. Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination. He defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike. The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by the "rationalism" that had guided European culture and politics in the past and had culminated in the horrors of World War I. As Breton himself put it: ?We still live under the reign of logic, but the methods of logic are applied nowadays only to the resolution of problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism which is still the fashion does not permit consideration of any facts but those strictly relevant to our experience. Logical ends, on the other hand, escape us. Needless to say that even experience has had limits assigned to it. It revolves in a cage from which it becomes more and more diffi
cult to release it.? Influenced by the theories of the pioneer of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and also by their left wing ideology, since most of them were members of the communist party, the images found in surrealist works are as confusing and startling as those of dreams. Surrealist works can have a realistic, though irrational style, precisely describing dreamlike fantasies. The surrealists opposed nearly all traditional values and sought to destroy all conventional social, moral, and artistic habits of thought and perception, a revolution that took place through the medium of automatic writing and other spontaneous techniques, modelled upon the psychotherapeutic procedure of free association as a means to eliminate conscious control in order to express the workings of the unconscious mind. Their purpose is clearly defined by Breton who writes that ?we have attempted to present interior reality and exterior reality as two elements in process of unification, or finally becoming one. This final unification is the supreme aim of surrealism: interior reality and exterior reality being, in the present form of society, in contradiction (and in this contradiction we see the very cause of man's unhappiness, but also the source of his movement), we have assigned to ourselves the task of confronting these two realities with one another on every possible occasion. The film along with Bunuel?s second film L?age d?Or was immediately hailed by the surrealists as films that faithfully represented their aspirations. The film made in collaboration with Salvador Dali whose highly original imagination and his remarkable virtuosity in painting have led him to the creation of paintings that display an ?obsessive interest in psychological matters which go beyond those of a disinterested observer? . ?the two Spaniards met in the early 1920?s at the Residencia of the University of Madrid where the generation of ?27 was forged, that group of tale
nted writers and artists who were to shape the artistic and intellectual profile of Spain in the coming years? , and they both joined the surrealist group after the success of Un Chien Andalu and they went on to contribute to their periodicals for the next few years. The way in which the film was conceived is essential to its understanding. As Bunuel recalls ?Dali and I chose gags, objects which came to mind, and we rejected mercilessly all that could signify something. The plot is the result of a conscious psychic automatism and to that extent it does not attempt to recount a dream although it profits by a mechanism analogous to that of dreams?. It seems that Bunuel and Dali followed the early surrealist poets, who, believing in Freud?s psychological observations, sought to break through their ego to their id, practised automatic writing, putting down on paper whatever came to mind, at least during the writing of the film/ The production which was left to the experienced hands of Bunuel was far more organised and controlled. After the success of the film Salvador Dali was perfectly pleased : ?the film produced the effect that I wanted and it plunged like a dagger in the heart of Paris as I had foretold. Our film ruined in a single evening ten years of pseudo-intellectual post-war avant-gardism? while Bunuel who was prepared to defend himself from an angry mob said : ?what can I do against those fervent admirers of novelty, even if a novelty outrages their deepest convictions, against a venal of hypocritical press, against the idiotic multitude that has pronounced as beautiful or poetic what in essence is only a desperate and passionate appeal to murder? The film resembles a dream and, like a dream, is both fascinating and disturbing while it was deliberately made and intended to jolt the spectator's peace of mind and to convey some of the basic beliefs underlying the surrealist movement, including the omnipotence of desire as it is eviden
ced by Bunuel?s treatment of image, montage, and sound and as we will see. These gave his film its dreamlike quality. His most intense images are evocative of either humour or mystery. So the film begins with the title ?Once Upon a time? and then we see a man, played by Louis Bunuel himself, sharpening a razor, he then proceeds to go to the balcony and look at the full moon, we see a woman?s eye being stretched by the hand of a man and then a cloud passing in front of the moon is juxtaposed to the razor passing, and slitting the woman?s eye. The next title places us ?Eight years later? as we see a bicyclist wearing a cap a cape and an apron over his suit. We follow him while cycling through the streets from several different angles and through several dissolves, after a close up of the striped box that he is wearing we see a woman in a room reading. She suddenly throws her book away, as if she has sensed his arrival, and goes to the window, we see the bicyclist approaching and when he reaches to a halt he collapses to the side of the pavement. The woman looks quite distressed and she rushes down to the street in order to kiss and caress him, he looks quite dead. After another close up of the striped box that he was wearing we see that the woman has laid all his clothes in order on the bed and is opening the little box, which reveals a stripped piece of paper that wraps a stripped tie. She sits down and looks at the man?s clothes with great concentration as if she were to bring him up from the dead. As she looks to her left we see in a pov shot the man, dressed in his suit, staring at his palm, then we see his palm which is cluttered with ants going in and out of a hole in the middle of his hand. The woman gets up and takes a look at his palm and then the film fades to an image of an armpit, then to an image of a sea urchin and then to the image of a head seen from above. We realise that the head belongs to a woman dressed in man?s clot
hes who is poking on a severed hand with a stick. People are gathered around her and there seems to be a lot of fuss. In the next shot we realise that the first man and woman are witnessing the scene from the widow above. A policeman arrives, picks up the hand and hands it to the hermaphrodite who accepts it, as the crowd disperses traffic returns and tension rises as the couple from the window witness the woman?s deadly accident. Back to the room now we see that the man is quite excited by all that he has seen and he is making advances on the woman who is reluctant to give in. He corners her and feels her breasts which suddenly became bare while a little later the change into her buttocks for a second. She escapes him and he chases her around the room. She goes to the corner and threatens to hit him with a cross-like tennis racket. He stops and thinks for a second and suddenly he bents down, picks up two ropes and starts pulling them, as he slowly approaches the woman we see his burden, he is currying two catholic priests who are tied on two grand pianos which are filled with two dead donkeys. We see all these from several angles and for some time. Then suddenly the woman runs out of the room and he drops the ropes and runs after her. She closes the door on him, trapping his arm with it, he is withering in pain while we see another close up of his palm filled with crawling ants. We cut to the woman who looks to her left and sees the man lying on the bed, along with the clothes that she had organised on it earlier. She lets go of the door, and at that point we see the title ?At three o clock in the morning?. Then we see a man approaching a door and pressing the doorbell, the man on the bed seems to have heard something while we see two hands coming out of two holes cut out on a cardboard shaking a cocktail shaker. The man at the door presses the button and we see the hands shaking the shaker again, the woman goes downstairs to open the door
. The he rushes into the room and orders the man to get up, give him the clothes that he is trying to hide, which he proceeds to throw out of the window, and then forces him to stand against the wall with his arms stretched as if he was punished at school. At that moment the music changes and we see the title ?Sixteen Years ago?. We are back on the same room only this time we see it in slow motion, the man who came in at 3 o?clock turns around and reveals himself to be a younger version of the first man. We see a desk cluttered with papers, pens and books, then the young double picks up two books and handles them to the older one who is still standing against the wall, for a moment it seems as if the younger version wants to hug his older double but he hesitates, he walks away, the film cuts to a shot of the other man holding the books which suddenly, through a jump cut, transform into guns, he shoots and kills his younger double who falls, and as he does we cut in a shot where there is a woman sitting with her back on us, upon which the dying man is trying to find support. He falls to the ground and the woman disappears, suddenly some men appear pick him up and walk away in the distance. It seems as if the film has finished but suddenly the music changes. The woman from the first part of the film enters a room and looks at the wall opposite her. We see the wall and we can make out a wasp on it, as we see the woman staring at we go closer and closer, through progressive cuts, to an extreme close up of the wasp?s skull coloured back. The film cuts to a man which we recognise to be the bicyclist. He puts his hand over his mouth and with a sudden move he makes it disappear, the woman on the other hand emphasises her mouth by using lipstick. Back to the man who suddenly has a lot of hair on his face, which the woman immediately feels that has been stolen from her armpit. Upset and furious she sticks her tongue out to the man and walks out of the door, the
re is a breeze on her hair as she waves to someone off-screen, the reverse shot reveals a man on a beach, she runs to him and he shows her his watch, she puts his arm down and they begin to stroll on the beach. As they walk they find the stripped box and the other clothes that were thrown out of the window by the first man?s younger double. They toss them away and they continue their walk. Another title appears ?In Spring?, we see a still shot of the man and the woman half buried in the sand, lifeless and dead. As we said the film begins with the title ?Once upon a time? which situates the film in a mythical, fantastic world, so right from the outset we realise that we are not entering in a world similar to ours. The next title ?Around 3 o clock in the morning? note a time when usually people are asleep and it suggests that we are entering the world of dreams, while the ?Sixteen years ago? title accompanied by the music changing takes us back in time but keeps the action in the same room. Finally the last title ?In Spring? which bears connotations of rebirth and joy finds the protagonists half buried on the beach and acts as a major irony. The film is punctuated ?by craftily inane intertitles, to aim a further blow at silent cinema, mainstream or avant-garde, by reduction to absurdity.? And indeed the titles of the film offer no coherent meaning to the narrative, on the contrary they seem irrational and confusing, and they dislocate the temporal relations of the characters. Another way by which the film undermines reason and normality is the use of irrational formal montages and visual metaphors. For example in the scene with the slit eye there is a formal montage as the image of a cloud passing in front of the moon is juxtaposed to the image of a razor cutting an eye. While a little later when the film goes from the hand filled with ants to the androgyne outside through the images of an armpit, a sea urchin, and the hair we a
re presented with another case of formal editing all the above images have a central circular element which is being utilised by Bunuel. The logic of dreams is basically the equivalent of the method of montage used by Bunuel in this film. One type of montage relies on the relationships between different visual forms and as Michael Gould wrote ?This is dream imagery and its logic is at its most precise and irrational; the flow of the images are based only of formal structures ?visual similarities alone are enough cause for surrealist effect.? While Steven Kovacs sees this succession of shots as ?a free association of objects along the line of a certain organic and sexual preoccupation. That meaning emerges in large part from the similar titillation of the sense of touch which these three different objects are capable of producing.? No matter how people will read the film the essential element of irrationality is present while the opening sequence of the film has been seen as an attack to rationality, which is shocking and cathartic leaving the audience ready for the film?s subversive elements. There are a few more formal montages in the film, which happen with the equations of the woman?s breasts and buttocks when the man starts fondling her, while the cocktail shaker provides and irrational but comical visual metaphor. The film also plays with the spatial relationships between the characters. Doors and windows stop having the same meaning as in reality and they become gates to strange juxtapositions. For example when the woman escapes the man by going to the room next door, she find herself in the same room again. In the same irrational logic when the man?s younger double is killed he falls on the back of a woman in the middle of a forest. Through magical editing he has travelled in space to grasp a woman who is so still that we are not sure whether she is a woman or a statue, and as we begin to examine her she mysteriously disappears. As is the case
with the end of the film when the woman leaves the house to find herself on a beach! The film is subversive also by its introduction of a surrealist object, in this case the diagonal stripes, as a recurrent motif throughout the film. The bicyclist is wearing a diagonally stripped box which hangs on a cord around his neck. When the woman later on opens the box she finds a similarly stripped piece of paper in it which encloses an also diagonally stripped tie. Near the end of the film when the woman and her new man are walking down the beach they find this box and its contents which had been previously thrown out of the window by the man?s younger double. This surrealistic visual motif is another mysterious and irrational element which can be seen as a joke for audience and critics alike. Two more examples of irrationality can be seen at the scene with the Close up of ants which are crawling on the man?s hand which comes back for a second time a bit later. The first time that we saw the hand it was a ?an object of fixation for the man which started the associations ending in a similar preoccupation with the androgyne in the street. As such it was a strongly sexual image, perhaps standing for itching desire. In the second instance the crawling ants are there for a more simple and immediate reason, namely, to illustrate as a metaphor the tingling sensation arising from interference with the circulation of blood? The hermaphrodite who pokes the severed hand on the road with a stick embodies mystery and absurdity as well. Is it a man or a woman, and why does not she move away from the cars when they start passing by her? In addition to all these we have one of the most comical and at the same time irrational and absurd scenes in the history of cinema, when the man picks up the ropes from the floor and starts dragging those pianos. ?The sight of the man straining against his inhibitions which is violent and ludicrous at the same time. The man?s load
is intended to represent the forces which hold him back from demonstrating his violent sexuality? , says one critic while another one sees ?A more pointed anarchistic spirit is displayed in Bunuel?s and Dali?s treatment of the establishment. In Un Chien Andalu, two priests are hauled across the bedroom as they cling to the carcass-ridden pianos. As they pass diagonally up and out of the frame, Bunuel dismisses religion along with art, in its most conventional form (two grand pianos)? Another sequence that totally surprises us with its strangeness is a long shot of a group of men who in coats who stroll seemingly aimlessly in the woods. They find the man?s body and they carry it away in the distance. We do not know and we never learn who these men are and where they came from. The scene is presented to us as a pure coincidental action and which has no connection with anything else in the film. Our only insight is that it could be seen as constituting a small homage to Dadaism and their love for the accidental. Finally immediately after the above scene we are encountered with yet another absurd and fantastic moment of the film. The mans manages to make his mouth disappear and then introduces hair on it. Michael Gould says that ?a Freudian-symbolic analysis of this sequence would not only be lifelessly pedantic but also silly; who really cares about the genital exchange that appears to be represented, or the feelings of sexual insecurity from which the young man suffers?? And he goes on to explain that we are confronted with a depiction of the battle of the sexes which has been organised in such a bizarre and absurd way, that the viewer experiences humour on a subconscious level as the conscious mind cannot absorb the irrationalism of the scene. As we see throughout the film ?Bunuel arouses the audience by touching upon a number of their deeply seated psychological impulses. Since these feelings are evoked without being fitted into a rational
framework, they unleash the disorder of the unconscious? It has become quite obvious that no rational explanation of the film is possible, and that the film is using many ways, as we saw, to subvert and undermine normality and reason. It does not follow a conventional narrative pattern although it is using the grammar of Hollywood, it is realistic but nor rational, and although due to the framing and the lighting the audience is lured, it also distanced by the film through violence and does not allow empathy. The point of dispensing with a rational narrative and the most accepted properties of the everyday world is to assist the audience in obtaining the liberty of irrationality. The film seems to be the mixture of surrealist aesthetics with the discoveries of Freud and although critics and audience have a need ?for a reasonable explanation for the film, which causes them to ignore the specifically subversive which is one of the most distinctive features of a film called irrelevantly ?An andalusian dog? and the film can be seen as Freudian, we do not think that that is the right way to go in analysing this film. Freud is not recognised as an authority anymore and Bunuel and Dali made sure that it would not make some sense during the conception of the shots. The only method of investigation is perhaps psychoanalysis but it has to be understood that significance is to be found in the themes of the film and also to its strong political subversiveness as understood by the rest of the members of the surrealist group. Sources of quotes: 1.Drummond Phillip Ed, Un Chien Andalu, Louis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, Faber and Faber, London, 1994. 2.Gould Michael, Surrealism and the Cinema, The Tantivy Press, London 3.Hammond Paul Ed, The Shadow and its Shadow, Surrealist Writings on film, BFI, London, 1978. 4.Kovacs Steven, From Enchantment to Rage, the story of surrealist cinema, Associated University Press, Lon
don, 1980 5.Matthews J.H., Surrealism and Film, The University of Michigan Press, Michigan, 1971 6.Moraitis Makis Ed, From Romanticism to Surrealism and to Revolution, Kathreftis Publications, Athens, 1997 7.Rosemont, Franklin Ed, Andre Breton, What is Surrealism? Selected Writings, Pluto Press, Plymouth, 1978.
Nothing in 'Un Chien Andalou' makes any sense, the title ("an Andalusian dog") included. This is true because its creators, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, said so. No 'hidden meanings', only personal interpretations. However there's no shame in trying to understand it because it's cool to be contrary. It was made in the hope of administering a revolutionary shock to society. Today, its techniques have been so thoroughly absorbed even in the mainstream that its shock value is diluted. The eyeball-slicing scene will always be disturbing, but it's so famous that today it gets more "ooohs" of recognition than "aaahs" of horror. The scandal of 'Un Chien Andalou' has become one of the legends of the surrealists. At the first screening, Bunuel claimed, he stood behind the screen with his pockets filled with stones to throw at the audience in case of a riot (although no-one at the time remembers these stones, adding this to the vast catalogue of Bunuel's imagined-history). 'Un Chien Andalou' was one of the first handmade films - movies made by their creators on a shoestring budget, without studio financing. One day Bunuel described a dream to Dali, in which a cloud sliced the moon in half, "like a razor blade slicing through an eye." Dali countered with his own dream about a hand crawling with ants. From these two subconscious fantasies, they wrote the screenplay together, and Bunuel directed, taking only a few days and borrowing the budget from his mother. In collaborating on the scenario, their method was to toss shocking images or events at one another. Both had to agree before a shot was included in the film. Rationality was consciously avoided. To describe the movie is simply to list its shots because there is no story line to link them. The image of the moon was followed by the image of a man with a razor (Bunuel) slicing a woman's e
ye (actually a calf's eye, although legend has transformed it into a pig). The hand crawling with ants was followed by a transvestite on a bicycle, a hairy armpit, a severed hand on the sidewalk, a stick poking the hand, a silent-movie-style sexual assault, a woman protecting herself with a tennis racket, the would-be rapist pulling the piano with its bizarre load (priests and dead donkeys), and so on. Countless analysts have applied Freudian, Marxist and Jungian formulas to the film. Bunuel laughed at them all. Still, to look at the film is to learn how thoroughly we have been taught by other films to find meaning even when it isn't there. We assume that the man pulls the piano (with the priests and dead donkeys) across the room because his sexual advance has been rebuffed by the woman with the tennis racket. Some interpret it as an anti-clerical, anti-bourgeois statement, with the load representing the heavy burdens society hangs on progress. However Bunuel might argue the events have no connection. The man's advance is rejected, and then, in an absolutely unrelated action, he picks up the ropes and starts to pull the piano. 'Un Chien Andalou' is medicinal. It assaults old and unconscious habits of moviegoing. It's disturbing, frustrating, maddening. There is wry humour in it, and a cheerful willingness to offend. Most members of today's audiences are not offended, and maybe that means the surrealists won their revolution.