The first time I watched ‘Un chien Andalou‘, I was mere 16 years old and still in school. My philosophy/ German literature/ Politics & Economy teacher told me to watch it, after he caught me reading a book about Salvador Dali in class. I was lucky that he wasn’t angry about students reading in his classes, he actually encouraged me reading interesting material when I was finished with my tasks and made recommendations. So he recommended ‘Un chien Andalou‘ to me.
I remember that I found the short film very strange. It was silent. I rarely watched silent films before so this was the first new thing to me. Next the surrealism. I struggled finding the meaning behind the images I saw.
Today I watched the short film again, 6 years after I saw it for the first time, hoping that with all the things I learnt about cinematography so far will help me to appreciate more than I did back then.
Turned out that nothing really changed. The images still make no sense to me as there is not meaning in the film altogether and I found the film misleading. But it was now clear to me that this was intentional. It wasn’t an accident, the randomness of the scenes in the film serve a purpose. It lies in human nature to try and find patterns, even if there aren’t any. In this case, Luis Brunuel and Salvador intended to alienate the audience. Buñuel said about choosing the scenes for the edit:
“No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.”
The duo used their dreams as an inspiration for the short film. In Dalis case it was the scene with the ants crawling out of a hand, that originally was his own dream.
I always connect insects, that come out of a body with decay, not necessarily decay of the human body, but decay of ethics, morals, emotions. Since in this film the hand is shown and the hand is a universal tool for humans to build, destroy, touch especially in connection with the previous sexual harassment scene, I see it as a decay of the character’s morals.
However moviesididntget suggests another interpretation
“Her reverie is destroyed when she sees her son in the corner, staring at his hand; a close-up reveals ants crawling out of the palm. A common visual metaphor in Dali’s paintings, this signifies that she has caught her son masturbating; the shock on her face upon seeing the ants echoes his shame at the discovery.”
I am not sure, if I agree with this interpretation since Buñuel supposedly said himself that nothing in the film symbolizes anything (even the title is not related to the film at all!). It is hard to say which interpretation is right and I am confident that there is no right or wrong, which makes that piece of surreal film even more interesting. You can watch it over and over and still discover different things or different possible meanings. Although Buñuel and Dali didn’t want to please the viewer, but shock him, they still created an important surreal short film that invites the viewer to think about the images he saw.
MOVIES I DIDN’T GET (2015) Un chien Andalou – Kill your symbols. [Online] Available from: http://moviesididntget.com/2011/01/17/un-chien-andalou-kill-your-symbols/ [Accessed: 12.11.2015]
CLASSIC ART FILMS (31.07.2015) Un chien Andalou (1929). [Online] Available from: http://www.classicartfilms.com/un-chien-andalou-1929 [Accessed: 12.11.2015]