Un Chein Andalou, A Visual Analysis

1489 words - 6 pages

Un Chein Andalou was written and directed by Luis Bunuel in collaboration with the infamous surrealist artist Salvador Dali in 1928. Neither the title ("an Andalusian dog") nor anything else in the film was intended to make sense. It's placement of natural unrelated objects presented in an unnatural relationship, just like in dreams, designed to purposely shock and provoke emotions from its viewers "For the first time in the history of the cinema a director tries not to please but rather to alienate nearly all potential spectators." wrote the critic Ado Kyrou. (1)Although today's audiences may find it's techniques less shocking, except for perhaps the famous scene in which the woman's eyeball is sliced open, or the shot of the man dragging the piano that has the priests and the dead donkeys on top of it, it still remains one of the most famous short films ever made.The idea for Un Chein Andalou came from a conversation Bunuel had with Dali in which he recalled a dream that he had, 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. "And what if we started right there and made a film?" asked Bunuel, and they did.Shot over two weeks on a shoestring budget supplied by Bunuel's mother and without studio financing, Un Chein Andalou illustrates Bunuel's remarkable ability as a filmmaker and served as a calling card for Bunuel and Dali into the elite club of the surrealists.In collaborating on the film Bunuel and Dali's method was to toss shocking images or events at one another. Both had to agree before a shot was included in the film.Nearly seventy years after it was made, the remarkable opening sequence still retains its power: "Once upon a time..." the introductory title proclaims. An amateur Bunuel, anxiously puffing on a cigarette, sharpens the blade of a razor. He cuts his fingernail to prove it is sharp and then exits the room for a balcony and looks at the full moon. The camera then shifts back to Bunuel who is with a woman who has appeared out of nowhere. As the moon is about to be covered by a cloud Bunuel forces open the eye of the woman, the cloud cuts across the surface of the moon as the razor slices the eye apart. Bunuel's fascination with Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (in which a woman's eye is savaged by a sabre) would explain this sequence. It is reported that although Bunuel was the originator of the idea and the images, he was nauseated the first few times he watched the scene. (2) This is the most famous sequence but it is also the key to the rest of the film.One sequence leads to another, objects from one shot reappear in the next, the image of the slicing of the woman's eye (actually a calf's eye) is followed by the hand crawling with ants, one can connect the image of ants crawling on a man's hand to a five-year-old Dali having discovered ants crawling over the dead carcass of his pet bat. (3) This scene is followed by a...

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