Salvador Dalí & Luis Buñuel (1929)
Un Chien Andalou is an early surrealist film in which Salvador Dalí and Louis Buñuel collaborated on in order to create a collision of their combined dreams. The Title “Once upon a time” comes across the screen giving us the impression that this will perhaps be just another traditional Hollywood movie, but Dalí and Buñuel are playing with us. They know what the audience expects, but instead of giving us a movie that follows a traditional narrative structure they give us something much more visual and much more stimulating. They make us look and watch with a fascinated mind, and meanwhile the movie itself is making us think. Perhaps the film is a distant reminder of a memory from a past life or forgotten dream locked deep within our psyche. At first glance we are unsure of what exactly we are watching and perhaps many people, particularly in the late 1920s, were highly disgusted by the piece. However, those that found some inspiration in the work of art would use the film as a basis for their own experimental films. Ten to twenty years after the release of Un Chien Andalou, it seems that the film has paved the way for a new generation of experimental filmmakers, such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Stan Brakhage, and has influenced many other filmmakers working in the realm of Avent Garde, trance, and other experimental films.
The film begins with the classic eye slicing scene. Instantly we are shown that this is definitely not a traditional film at all. This scene is shown in sequence with a shot of a cloud slicing the moon in half, to which Jean Vigo had said, “Can there be any spectacle more terrible than the sight of a cloud obscuring the moon at its full? The prologue can hardly have one indifferent. It tells us that in this film we must see with a different eye.” I find this interesting because what I get from this is that the night cuts up our waking life. The night is a time when the world falls asleep, but our dreams awaken and become a new reality. In our dreams we do look at the world, ourselves, and others from our minds eye, and we see things as they truly are in relation to our inner selves. The filmmakers grab hold of our attention, and our entire being is glued to the screen. We want to see what happens next. Just then the title reads, “eight years later”. The artistic filmmakers are clearly messing with us now.
For individuals who lack an imagination, this film may seem like an nonsensical rambling of sorts. However, to me the film seems to follow some type of narrative. Dalí had mentioned of the film that, “the pure and correct line of conduct of a human who pursues love through wretched humanitarian, patriotic ideals and the other miserable workings of reality.” So, I guess to me this would mean that throughout life we are in constant search to find our true selves and to find a love that is supportive of that self, but all the while we are bombarded by the issues of the real world, of patriotism, and so forth that we often lose ourselves in a cold and uncaring world. However, on the other hand, Buñuel had this to say about the film, “Our only rule was very simple: No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.” I find this to be a very interesting point of view and believe this is why the film has such a dreamlike quality. This is still true today, but this was something brand new that people had never seen before. Suddenly, people are being shown the inner workings of someone else’s thoughts and dreams. Something that had never been done before.
Perhaps this film was intended to shock audiences, but I feel that it has been a very important and influential work of art. It introduced a new way of filmmaking and it encouraged others to push the boundaries of traditional Hollywood movies. It has also pushed filmmakers and other artists to explore themselves, their thoughts, their dreams, their desires, etc. so that we are able to awaken and inspire others around us. To encourage them to open their eyes and think for themselves. To create the vision we see within ourselves.
– Film analysis written by Tavis Moon (2016)