Surrealist Cinema

After much fascination of the short film, Un Chien Andalou, I have researched and found it to involve several instances of dreams. Basically, Surrealist Salvidor Dali came up with the ideas based on his own dreams. Dreams are a big aspect of the Surrealist movement, as their purpose was to “enhance our knowledge and understanding of the world” ().

un_chien_andalou2Director of Un Chien Andalou, Luis Buñuel, said in his autobiography that the film, “came from an encounter between two dreams” (Buñuel). This idea of two dreams is shown with the famous eye slice scene. The blade slices through the center of the eye (photograph shown above), and then the cinema fades to a cloud “slicing” through the middle of the moon. Perhaps Dali had dreams where a cloud cut through the middle of the moon, just like a knife cuts through the eye or vise versa. This eye slicing seen in the beginning of the film also displays the idea of distancing a viewer from familiarity. The viewer is to use other senses than sight.

Another large aspect of this short film the idea of time and space. Each inter-title disrupts the film and introduces a new sequence of events, but the viewer is unsure if any time has passed. No characters age and the house seems the same. These intermittent titles that change the subject are comparable to a dream that changes subject. In a dream, the dreamer allows these subject changes, just as the viewer must in this piece. Then the question of space. There is both a street and coastal beach outside the house. How can this be? Only in a dream does the viewer accept flawed spacial ideas like this. We accept our dreams in terms of time and space because we are dislocated from reality and familiarity.

Something extravagant, such as the scene where the women’s the armpit hair replaces the man’s mouth, seems like imagery that could only happen in a dream. Dreams are a space where surreal ideas are allowed and accepted. Dali and Buñuel put these ideas on the screen. Dreams allow the mind to create beyond reality. Through this film, the avant garde form of surrealist cinema is displayed. This film takes the viewer into a dream (or two), which is the type of lens that a viewer has to have to interpret this short film. The result of this was the induction of Buñuel and Dali into Andre Breton’s movement.


James Magrini – Text

Luis Buñuel in his autobiography, My Last Breath, Jonathan Cape, London, 1983, p.103


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