The film's opening intertitle suggests a fairy tale with a traditional narrative structure. Subsequent events in the film disrupt these expectations in at least two ways. First, the scene following the intertitle is in fact an act of brutal violence, namely Buñuel's slicing the Woman's eye with a razor. Second, the film is not a traditional or linear narrative, at least at the level of its intertitles. Thus, the following intertitles do not push any narrative forward, and whenever they appear to situate the film in a temporal sequence, the actual scenes are typically in contradiction with that sequence. (For example, an intertitle such as "Sixteen years earlier," suggesting a flashback, is followed by a shot virtually unchanged from the previous one.) That said, the opening intertitle is appropriate insofar as the film's engagement with notions of magic, derived from its dream logic, suggests a fairy tale: thus, a "magician" (in the form of Buñuel) performs the illusion of slicing a woman's eye, only for her to reappear completely unharmed in the following scene.
"Eight years later"
This intertitle is followed by shots of the First Man, riding his bicycle in the streets and wearing the white linens with the striped box around his neck. Thus, having been introduced to the Woman in the previous scene, we are now introduced to the second principal character. (Simone Mareuil and Pierre Batcheff, who play the Woman and the First Man, respectively, are the only actors listed in the credits.) This scene contrasts markedly with the previous one: compared to the short, sharp cuts of the scene of eye-slicing, the shots of the First Man on the bicycle are longer, more leisurely, and separated by dissolves. Moreover, in contrast with the abrupt violence of the previous scene, the man casually collapses on his bicycle. We cut from the First Man to the Woman in the apartment, and—despite the intertitle's reading "Eight Years Later"—they appear completely unharmed and unaffected by the violence done to her eye (supposedly eight years earlier). Thus, this intertitle once again disrupts expectations.
“Around three in the morning"
This is the only intertitle in the film that can be understood as abiding by normal narrative expectations. There is nothing in the subsequent scene to suggest that it does not take place "Around three in the morning," and there is also no thematic or tonal incongruence between the scene and our normal understanding of the early morning. (Thus, this intertitle should be contrasted with the film's last intertitle, "In springtime," whose tone, suggesting rebirth and renewal, is incongruent with the grim scene of the principal characters buried up to their torsos in sand.) In fact, there is even a kind of congruence between the intertitle and the subsequent scene of the Second Man's arriving at the apartment, as Buñuel represents the sound of the Second Man's ringing the doorbell by showing hands (protruding from holes in a wall) shaking a cocktail shaker: the festive image of a cocktail shaker is perfectly congruent with our expectations of what might take place in the early morning in Paris of the 1920s, when parties might still be roaring.
“Sixteen years earlier"
This intertitle suggests a flashback, but the shot following it is virtually identical, and apparently continuous, with the previous shot: the Second Man turns around from the First Man, who placed himself in the corner of the apartment (the same corner where the Woman had gone to protect herself from his sexual assault), as though to protect himself from the former's bullying. However, the shot (of the Second Man turning) following the intertitle is slightly different from the previous shot, as it is in slow motion and we can now see that the Second Man is in fact identical to the First Man. According to the film scholar Elza Adamowicz, the kind of playfulness with intertitles that Buñuel displays in this scene recalls a joke Buster Keaton used in his film The Paleface (1922), in which Keaton kisses a woman, followed by an intertitle reading "Two Years Later," and then followed by a shot of his still kissing the same woman (Adamowicz 73).
Once again, Buñuel upends expectations with this intertitle. Following a scene of apparent resolution or denouement, in which the Woman and her lover encounter the linens and the striped box in tatters on the beach (suggesting that these are the remains of the First Man, whom we won't see again), this intertitle offers a kind of epilogue. Moreover, the intertitle "In springtime" suggests a pleasant epilogue of renewal and rebirth. Instead, we see the First Man and the Woman buried up to their torsos in sand, completely disheveled and perhaps dead: a last trauma in this film throughout punctuated by trauma.
Un Chien Andalou Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Un Chien Andalou is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.