Un Chien Andalou (1929) Director: Luis Buñuel
Un Chien Andalou is an extremely challenging film that requires considerable research before viewing. It is unique in that it tells a story without a plot or a purpose. Un Chien Andalou is a good film that is certainly worth watching.
“An Andalusian Dog” is a silent, Freudian free association film. Its running time is about 15-21 minutes depending the version, and it was the first surrealist experiment with film by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel.
The film begins with a title card reading “One Upon a Time” and introduces the audience to an unnamed man (Luis Buñuel) who is sharpening his razor and looks up at the moon. He sees some clouds pass by the moon and imagines a young woman (Simone Mareuil) getting her eyeball sliced with a razor. In this most famous scene in the film, it is Buñuel’s hand holding the razor that then slits the eye (they used the eyeball of a calf).
Next a title reads “Eight Years Later” and a young man wears a a nun’s habit as he bicycles down the street until crashing. Meanwhile, in the young woman’s apartment, a doctor and the young man appear and a hand with a hole is revealed by the door as ants emerge from the hole. A young girl pokes a severed hand with a stick outside on the ground.
The young girl is then hit by a car and the young man in the apartment begins to chase the woman around, cupping her breasts. She runs away in the room and he reaches down for a racquet in self defense, but instead picks up two ropes dragging two grand pianos with mutilated donkeys on them along with the ten commandments and two confused priests, one played by Dali.
The next title card reads “Around Three in the Morning.” The man is awoken by the sound of a martini shaker through the wall to find himself at the door telling him to remove his nun’s clothes.
The next intertitle reads “Sixteen Years Ago” as we find both men purchasing books, but one man shoots the other when his books turn into pistols. Dying, the other man vanishes into a meadow by a nude woman who disappears on a rock.
The young woman is back in her apartment to find a moth with a skull and the man who makes his mouth disappear until he makes it covered with her armpit hair. She flees the room sticking her tongue out at him. She shuts the door and turns to find herself on a sunny beach with a man. They romantically walk hand in hand until the next title reads “In Spring” where the two of them are buried up to their elbows in sand, appearing to be dead. The final title reads “Fin”.
The idea for the film came from Dali and Buñuel, who was an assistant Director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dali about a dream he had recently n which a could parted the moon like a razor slicing through an eye. Dali told him of a dream about a hand infested with ants and they embarked on making these dreams into a film. Their chief rule was that no idea or image would lend itself to rational explanation in the film because nothing symbolizes anything.
The entirety of the film was financed by Buñuel’s mother and was shot in about 14 days in Paris and Le Havre. It was edited by Buñuel in his kitchen without the help of technology, due to budget constraints. Upon its release in Paris many notable members of the surrealist community attended, others included Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Though the film was intended to shock the tastes of the bourgeoisie in France, it was met with wild critical reception. Buñuel was shocked by this, thinking that it would instead be an inspiration for people to murder one another.
Both of the leading actors committed suicide: Pierre Batcheff killed himself via an overdose in a hotel in Paris, 1932, and Marueil self immolated herself by pouring gasoline on herself and lighting it in a public French square in 1954.