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Un Chien Andalou Experimental Movie Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1310 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Bunuel explains that historically the film represents a violent reaction against what in those days was called “avant-garde”, which was aimed exclusively at artistic sensibility and the audience’s reason. In Un Chien andalou the film maker for the first time takes a position on a poetic- moral plane. His object is to provoke instinctive reactions of disgust and attraction in the spectator. He also says that nothing in the film symbolizes anything.

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The premise for the ideas from the film comes from two dreams, one by Luis Bunuel and one by Salvador Dali. Therefore in a dream-like sequence a woman’s eye is slit open, juxtaposed with a similarly shaped cloud obscuring the moon moving in the same direction as the knife through the eye, to grab the audience’s attention. The French phrase “ants in the palms,” shown as text on the screen literally, this is meant to show the man’s urge to kill the woman, as the phrase means “itching to kill”. This is based on Dali’s dream. A man pulls a piano along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a dead donkey towards the woman he’s itching to kill. Shots of striped objects are repeatedly being used to different connect scenes.

The film is an intense amalgam of modernist material drawn from a wider variety of cultural sources. It also includes amalgamates of the aesthetics of Surrealism with Freudian discoveries. It simply answers the general idea of that, which defines Surrealism as ‘an unconscious, psychic automatism, able to return to the mind its real function, outside of all control exercised by reason, morality or aesthetics’.

The narrative of the film is not continuous, there are non-real jumps in time and space, which make the characters doubt, retract and repeat themselves very much like in a dream and time is non- linear. Surrealist artists used film as a medium because it gave visual expression to their words and ideas and seemed to be closest to dream imagery. The film begins in the present, moves to 8 years later, then 3am, then 16 years before, and finally ends in spring. A very rich and individual cinematographic language is revealed by the use of angles, optical, focus, transitions and also the alternation of long-shots and close-ups.

The events that happen are not possible in our everyday reality, for example ants coming out of the palm of the man’s hand. Two completely unrelated objects and ideas come together and create a never seen before new idea. Like in the opening of the film, when the woman’s/ cow’s eye is slit it was Dali’s and Bunuel’s interest to shock the audience and make them question their own reality and by doing so creating a new one.

Man Ray mixed poetry and film to create the cinépoème. He used the same concept as Dali and Bunuel by using completely different and unrelated ideas and objects to create a new reality. An example of a cinépoème is Man Ray’s Etoile de mer (Starfish), a poem by Robert Desnos, which Man Ray interpreted through film. The film also involved innovative shots and camera angles, such as glimpses through church glass,which created a distorted, unclear view of the scene.

Sigmund Freud’s influence on European intellectuals resulted in automatic writing and the interests in the dream world. Salvador Dalí in particular set out to simulate mental disturbance with his “paranoiac-critical” method. These interests manifested themselves in explorations of the illlusionistic rendering of the dream world.

Surrealists were tying to challenge bourgeois values and saw themselves as revolutionaries valuing destruction as a way of clearing the ideological landscape. Bunuel’s film made a key link between surrealism and Freudianism, by revealing the cinema as the true metaphor of the dream state.

Atheistic, Dionysian, rebellious and revolutionary, the Surrealist movement thrived on the paradox of filling the moral, ethical and religious vacuum left in the wake of the First World War with another void of guiltness, sinless liberty.

As a resolution of World War One the political atmosphere in the 1920s was shaky.

The failure of postwar treaties, the economic disaster and the failure of the League of Nations to keep the peace, made it possible for opposing forces to once again emerge. The totalitarian regimes of several European countries used this tenuous ground to grow in the 1920s and 1930s. Benito Mussolini emerged as the head of the fascist regime in Italy which was derived from a staunch nationalism. Joseph Stalin gained control of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in 1929 and Adolf Hitler in Germany by building the National Socialist German Workers’ Party into a mass political movement.

The questions left from the aftermath of World War One were in need of an intellectual

answer. Instead of rejecting everything, as Dada espoused, Surrealism sought a way to

improve the society in which it was entrenched. While Dada was a primary rebellion of the individual against art, morality, and society based on chance and with nihilistic intent,

Surrealism was based on hope. While Surrealism tended to create instead of destroy, Dada was against everything.

Not only in art and literature Surrealism was a ground breaking movement, but also in politics. The strongest years of Surrealism were between1924-38, and these were in many ways characterized by political actions. Breton founded La Révolution surréaliste in 1925 as the voice of Surrealism .

By the end of the War, many future Surrealists joined the Dada movement. They believed that the government systems had led them into the war and they insisted that it was better not to have a government, also that the irrational was preferable to the rational in art, all of

life, and the civilization.

A dream-logic, chance, superstition, coincidence, absurdity and challenging orientation was favoured by the surrealists.

They also aimed to recreate links between primal thoughts and emotions in order to recast human needs away from materialism, mass culture and social order towards immersion in the revolutionary hagiography of mankind’s dark side.



http://www.wasistwas.de/aktuelles/reportage-HYPERLINK “http://www.wasistwas.de/aktuelles/reportage-film/filmlexikon/artikel/link//e5d323f0b8/article/lexikon-experimentalfilm.html”film/filmlexikon/artikel/link//e5d323f0b8/article/lexikon-experimentalfilm.html



Surrealists used all media were to create art or poetic acts.

One of the main goals of Surrealism was to force the viewer/reader out of his or her

everyday reality to see a new, surreality filled with the potential of changing the world

into a place of beauty, love, and freedom, away from the harsh truths of European politics

and the control of the bourgeoisie.

characteristic of the middle class, especially in being materialistic or conventional.


(in Marxist contexts) capitalist.


relating to or influenced by the Austrian psychotherapist Sigmund Freud (18561939) and his methods of psychoanalysis.

susceptible to analysis in terms of unconscious thoughts or desires: a Freudian slip.


the writing of the lives of saints.

a biography idealizing its subject.

Le Cinéma, des origines à nos jours; préface par Henri Fescourt.


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