Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou Glossary


Region in the south of Spain. Buñuel and Dalí chose the title Un Chien Andalou, French for “An Andalusian Dog,” because it did not bear directly on what goes on in the film, and so was in keeping with the film’s ambitions of not making rational sense. This has not prevented some from reading some significance into its title. For example, the Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca, former friend of Buñuel and Dalí from their days as students at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, accused the film of being a personal attack on him, supposedly saying, according to Buñuel’s autobiography My Last Sigh, “It’s called An Andalusian Dog, and I’m the dog!” In fact, Un Perro Andaluz, Spanish for “An Andalusian Dog,” was the title of a book of poems Buñuel wrote in 1927 but never published.


Opposition to religion and religious authority. We can see an anti-clerical tendency in the film’s mocking depiction of the two Marist Brothers (in the first shot, played by Dalí and Jaime Miravilles, in the second shot played by Miravilles and Marval) dragged along the floor with the grand pianos and other items. Buñuel was an avowed atheist throughout his life, and during the Spanish Civil War he aligned himself with anti-clerical anarchist and communist movements. He famously titled a chapter of his autobiography My Last Sigh, “Still an Atheist…Thank God!” Dalí, in contrast, held a much more positive attitude toward religion, and became a devout Catholic after World War II.

Automatic writing

The process of writing without consciously aiming to produce anything intelligible. The source of writing may be the unconscious, or it may (according to some) be spiritual or supernatural. Processes of automatic writing pervaded surrealist practice—for example, the collaboration between André Breton and Philippe Soupault on the 1919 surrealist text Les Champs magnétiques—as well as Buñuel’s and Dalí’s writing of the screenplay of Un Chien Andalou. Thus, critic Elza Adamowicz notes that when Buñuel says that “the images produced ‘are as mysterious and inexplicable to the two collaborators as they are to the spectator’…he is echoing Breton’s comment on Les champs magnétiques: "To you who write, these elements are, on the surface, as strange to you as they are to anyone else’” (Adamowicz 10). Other films whose writing processes might be characterized as “automatic” include Raúl Ruiz’s City of Pirates (1983) and David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006). See Exquisite Corpse and fundamental rule of psychoanalysis.

Cocktail Shaker

Device for mixing alcohol beverages dating to the late nineteenth century, and finding widespread popularity in the early twentieth century. In Un Chien Andalou a silver cocktail shaker, shaken by hands protruding from two holes, represents the sound of the doorbell upon the new man’s arrival “Around three in the morning.” This is the most explicit way in which this silent film represents sound through images: in this instance, through the metaphorical device of relying on a resemblance between the sound of a cocktail shaker and the sound of a doorbell. Buñuel was particularly passionate about cocktails, and he devotes a chapter of his autobiography, My Last Sigh, titled “Earthly Delights,” to cocktails and to his other drinking habits. In that chapter he also gives the recipe for his own invented dry martini, the “Buñueloni,” a recipe which he also provides in the voice of one of characters in the film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). In her film A Hundred and One Nights (1995), the filmmaker Agnès Varda mocks Buñuel’s martini habit.


A concept in psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams, signifying a mechanism in which different thoughts or impressions are combined into a single element of a dream. Condensation is, together with displacement, one of the mechanisms by which repressed thoughts can return in dreams. The interpretation of dreams in psychoanalysis often consists of the unpacking of separate thoughts or impressions combined in a single element. In Un Chien Andalou, we might understand such an unpacking to take place when a series of dissolves follows the first appearance of the man’s hand with ants crawling out of a hole in its center: these dissolves reveal this image to contain associations with a woman’s armpit on a beach, a sea urchin, and a severed hand on a street. See displacement.

Continuity error

An inconsistency in the story, or in the mise-en-scène (for example, in the placement of objects) in a film. A prominent continuity error in Un Chien Andalou occurs at the beginning of the film, when the man with the razor (played by Buñuel himself) alternately appears without a watch and wearing a tie (in close-ups) and with a watch and without a tie. Another example is when the gender non-conforming figure is run over by a car. In alternating shots, the figure (in close-ups) is holding the box with diagonal stripes and (in shots from the car’s point of view) then is no longer holding it.

Dementia praecox

A psychiatric diagnosis, no longer in use, meaning a psychotic disorder characterized by cognitive disintegration. In the early twentieth century the term ‘dementia praecox’ gradually gave way to the term ‘schizophrenia’. According to Buñuel, when the psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw Un Chien Andalou, he called it “a fine example of dementia praecox” (Buñuel, My Last Sigh, Chapter 19).


Concept in surrealist literature signifying the juxtaposition of multiple disparate elements in order to produce shock or surprise. According to André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto, dissociation is the “fortuitous juxtaposition” of disparate realities (Lyon 45). According to Elisabeth H. Lyon, a particularly shocking instance of dissociation in Un Chien Andalou is the film’s following its apparently innocent first title, “Once Upon a Time…,” suggesting a fairy tale, with its first shots of an eyeball being sliced (Lyon 46). See faux-raccord.


A concept in psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams, signifying a mechanism in which impulses attached to one object are transferred onto another. Often in dreams, according to psychoanalytic theory, displacement is one of the mind’s ways of censoring threatening impulses or thoughts. We can understand several of the symbols in Un Chien Andalou as operating according to a logic of displacement. For example, the woman’s fears of the first man might be understood as displaced onto the death’s-head moth she sees on the wall of the apartment. Indeed, the film suggests such a displacement when the shot of the death’s head on the moth cuts to a shot of the man’s head.


In film, a gradual transition from one image to another (in contrast with a cut, where there is no such transition), typically through the effect of one image fading into another. Buñuel uses dissolves throughout Un Chien Andalou, for example when the shot of the woman running to the first man in the street dissolves into a shot of the striped box; as well as when the shot of the hand with ants crawling out of it successively dissolves into shots of a woman’s armpit and a sea urchin. Since these transitions are gradual rather than sharp cuts, they suggest a close association between the juxtaposed images. A slow dissolve can also suggest a long passage of time, and in effect involves the superimposition of one image on another. In Un Chien Andalou we see this effect during the long dissolves throughout the first appearance of the cyclist on the street. See superimposition.


A double, or appearance of a double, of a person. In his essay “The Uncanny” (1919), Sigmund Freud suggested that the appearances of doppelgängers are paradigms of the uncanny, as they result from the return of repressed material: in particular, a return of the projection of multiple selves characteristic of early childhood narcissism. An instance of a character encountering his doppelgänger occurs in Un Chien Andalou when, after only seeing the back of the second man upon his arrival at the apartment (“Around three in the morning”), we find that he is in fact the same as the first man he had been ordering around. This becomes clear after the title “Sixteen years earlier,” as the second man approaches the first in slow motion. According to the film’s original shooting script, “They are one and the same person, but for the fact that the newcomer looks younger and more doleful.” Later examples in cinema of characters encountering their own doppelgängers include Maya Deren encountering several versions of herself in Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Pedro Costa casting similar-looking actors among the residents of the Fontainhas district of Lisbon in Ossos (1997), and Diane encountering another version of herself at the motel in the last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017).


The scientific study of insects. As a student at the University of Madrid, Buñuel took entomology courses at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (National Museum of Natural Sciences) from the naturalist Ignacio Bolívar. A concern with entomology appears in Un Chien Andalou in the form of the ants crawling out of the man’s hand (though that reportedly originated in a dream of Dalí’s) and the death’s-head moth. Other appearances of insects in Buñuel’s work include the documentary-style shots of scorpions fighting in L’Age d’Or (1930). Discussing the latter film, the writer Henry Miller said, “Buñuel, like an entomologist, has studied what we call love in order to expose beneath the ideology, the mythology, the platitudes and phraseologies the complete and bloody machinery of sex” (Begin 425). Paul Begin has likened Buñuel’s documentary Las Hurdes: Land without Bread (1933), about an impoverished region in the west of Spain, to an entomological investigation, particularly in the “(de)humanizing” treatment of its subjects (Begin 441).

Exquisite Corpse

A method by which words or images are collectively assembled, often by folding a piece of paper in four and inviting different participants to draw on each side, unaware of what the other participants have drawn on the other sides. The method originated as a parlor game among the Surrealists, its name coming from a phrase that resulted when some Surrealists played the game: “The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine” (Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau). The film scholar P. Adams Sitney has likened Buñuel’s and Dalí’s collaborative method of automatic writing in producing the screenplay of Un Chien Andalou to the method of the “Exquisite Corpse.” Sitney has also likened the collaborative method of Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid on Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) to that of the “Exquisite Corpse” (Sitney 3-4). See automatic writing and fundamental rule of psychoanalysis.


French for “false match.” A instance of two things—for example, two shots in a film—that fit together formally, or according to our normal expectations, but do not fit together in content, thereby producing a shocking or surprising result. According to Elisabeth H. Lyon, an instance of faux-raccord takes place near the end of Un Chien Andalou when the woman opens the door of her apartment, only to face a windy beach and a lover greeting her. The shots of the apartment and the beach are edited so that they appear continuous. Lyon notes that there is even a match in the eye-lines between the two characters (Lyon 48). This continuity is shocking because it connects two entirely different kinds of space (the interior of an apartment and a windy beach) as though they were one space. See dissociation.

Fundamental rule of psychoanalysis

The rule, first formulated by Sigmund Freud, that the fundamental expectation of a patient in psychoanalysis is that they say whatever comes to their mind. It is through this method that the analyst is able to detect unconscious patterns in the patient’s speech: i.e. patterns of which the patient may be unaware. Buñuel’s and Dalí’s method of writing the screenplay of Un Chien Andalou—their saying to each other what ideas came to their minds, without trying to establish rational connections among these ideas—invites comparison with how a patient obeys the fundamental rule of psychoanalysis. See automatic writing and Exquisite Corpse.

Gender non-conformism

The phenomenon of not conforming to traditional or expected gender expectations; not abiding by the traditional binary between male and female. In Un Chien Andalou, the figure who appears on the street poking a severed hand with a stick can be understood as gender non-conforming, and is often described as an “androgyne.” The original shooting script refers to the figure as a “young woman.” The figure was played by Fano Messan, who dressed according to the so-called garçonne (a feminization of the French garçon, meaning boy) fashion of the 1920s, characterized by a bobbed hairstyle and men’s clothes (Adamowiscz 12). Paris of the 1920s was notable for its relaxations of traditional gender expectations.


Printed text inserted into silent films in order to convey dialogue or exposition. In Un Chien Andalou only expository intertitles appear, and they all locate the images somewhere in time. In keeping with the film’s ambition of avoiding suggestions of rational connections between images, these intertitles either appear to have no bearing on the content of the images that follow (for example, the intertitle “Sixteen earlier earlier” followed by images that appear to follow sequentially from we saw just prior to the intertitle) or upend our expectations about what will follow them (for example “Once upon a time…”, suggesting the beginning of a fairy tale, followed by the shots of a woman’s eye being sliced).

Iris shot

Technique frequently associated with silent cinema in which a black circle is used to open or close a scene. Two prominent iris shots appear in Un Chien Andalou. The first is when, as part of a series of dissolves from the ants crawling out of the hole in the man’s hand, a shot of a sea urchin dissolves onto an iris shot of the gender non-conforming figure poking the severed hand with a stick. The film then cuts to an iris shot somewhat closer to the figure, and then back to the longer shot, which opens onto a crowd surrounding the figure. The second example is when the woman sees the death’s-head moth on the wall. An iris shot closes in on the death’s head, and the film then to cuts to a shot of the man’s head.

Marist Brothers

International community of Catholic priests devoted to education and founded in France in 1817. The two priests that the man drags by rope along with the two slabs and the two grand pianos (with dead donkeys on them) are normally understood as Marist Brothers, and were later designated as such by Buñuel (Adamowicz 8). In fact, the film’s original shooting script calls them “Brothers of Christian Schools,” suggesting a different Catholic educational order (sometimes called the “De La Salle Brothers”). In the first shot the Brothers are played by Dalí and a Catalan anarchist publisher named Jaime Miravilles. In the second shot the Brothers are played by Miravilles and Marval, the film’s production manager. Other titles that Buñuel and Dalí considered for the film were Go Marist (Vaya marista) and The Marist in the Crossbow (El Marista en la Ballesta) (Adamowiscz 11). Images of Marist priests recurred in Buñuel’s early poetry, including one poem satirizing the antics of two Marist priests (Adamowiscz 65-66).


French meaning “placing on stage.” When applied to theater, mise-en-scène is typically understood to mean the placement of sets, actors, and props (including in relation to one another) on the stage. The term has a somewhat broader application in film, as it can refer to the arrangement of elements in a film scene as well as the composition of objects in a single shot. For example, we can speak of mise-en-scène in Un Chien Andalou in terms of the arrangement of objects in the apartment (the curtains surrounding the balcony, the tennis racquet in the corner, the bed beside the window), as well as the arrangement of the woman on the left and the man on the right, buried up to their torsos in sand in the final shot of the film. Mise-en-scène is sometimes spoken of in contrast with montage, as through mise-en-scène meaning is conveyed through what is in a shot rather than principally through relationships between shots (i.e. through editing).


In its broadest sense in cinema, the method of conveying meaning in a film through editing or through the relationships between shots. The term is closely associated with Soviet Montage Theory and its proponents, notably Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein, the latter of whom was an admirer of Un Chien Andalou. Thus, it is through montage, or through the relationships between shots, that Buñuel establishes meaningful associations between the ants crawling out of the hole in the man’s hand, the woman’s armpit, and the sea urchin, and the figure poking at the severed hand with a stick. (See condensation.) In its narrower sense in cinema, montage is a method of editing together short shots in order to convey a condensed sequence of time. Arguably, Un Chien Andalou does not contain any “montage” in that narrower sense.

Point-of-view shot

A film shot purporting to show what a character in the film is seeing (i.e. from their own perspective). Several point-of-view shots occur in Un Chien Andalou: for example, when the woman looks out the apartment window to see the man collapsed on his bicycle in the street; when the man examines his own hand, seeing ants crawling out of a hole in it; when the man and the woman watch from their window as the gender non-conforming figure is hit by a car; and when the woman sees her lover on the beach.

Slow motion

Film effect whereby time appears to have slowed down. In a celluloid film such as Un Chien Andalou, the effect would have been achieved by running the film in the camera at a faster rate than it was to be projected. A prominent example of slow motion occurs in Un Chien Andalou just after the “Sixteen years earlier” intertitle, as the second man turns around (revealing him to be the same as the first man), approaches the school desk, and grabs the two books. Throughout this scene all shots of the second man, in contrast with shots of the first man, are in slow motion and in soft-focus. Presumably this was to achieve the effect of making the second man, despite being played by the same actor as the first, appear “younger and more doleful” (as Buñuel and Dalí put it in the original shooting script).


Film effect, typically achieved using a soft-focus lens, whereby the image is deliberately blurred. A prominent example of soft-focus occurs in Un Chien Andalou just after the “Sixteen years earlier” intertitle, as the second man turns around (revealing him to be the same as the first man), approaches the school desk, and grabs the two books. Throughout this scene all shots of the second man, in contrast with shots of the first man, are in soft-focus and in slow motion. Presumably this was to achieve the effect of making the second man, despite being played by the same actor as the first, appear “younger and more doleful” (as Buñuel and Dalí put it in the original shooting script).


Term in psychoanalysis, first developed by Sigmund Freud (who in German called it “Über-Ich”) designating the component of the psyche concerned with ethical judgment. The super-ego is often identified with the conscience, and is distinguished from the id (the psyche’s uncoordinated drives), and the ego (which mediates between the demands of the id and the super-ego). Un Chien Andalou includes a scene in which the man, upon sexually assaulting the woman, finds himself held back by several items connected by rope, including two Marist Brothers. The latter items might be understood as symbolizing the weight of his super-ego. By Buñuel’s own account, he read Freud during his days as a student in Madrid.


As it relates to film, the placing one image upon another in the same frame. This effect can be achieved by exposing the same piece of film multiple times. The effect of superimposition is often that of suggesting that the two images are taking place simultaneously, or are closely related thematically. For example, in Matías Piñeiro’s film Helena and Hermia (2016), which takes place in both New York City and Buenos Aires, shots of the two cities are superimposed on one another, suggesting connections between the two locations. Also, in the penultimate episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), the image of Dale Cooper’s head is superimposed on shots of a pivotal scene, suggesting that they are being seen from his perspective. Superimposition in Un Chien Andalou typically takes place during long dissolves, for example during the transitions between shots of the bicyclist’s movement through the streets, suggesting a slow or sorrowful movement.


Artistic and literary movement associated with the realistic depiction of unreal or dreamlike content. The movement began in France in the early 1920s, spread internationally, and ended with the beginning of World War II. The movement took particular inspiration from Sigmund Freud’s theories on dreams and the unconscious (although Freud distanced himself from the movement). Among its most important practitioners and leaders was the poet André Breton, author of The Surrealist Manifesto (1924). Both Buñuel and Dalí associated closely with Breton and his Surrealist circle in Paris, including Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara, René Char, Pierre Unik, Yves Tanguy, Jean Arp, Maxime Alexandre, and René Magritte. Reportedly the entire group of Paris Surrealists attended the first screening of Un Chien Andalou.

Vermeer, Johannes

Dutch painter (1632-1675) famous for his depictions of middle-class interiors. Early in the film the woman is seen reading a book, which she throws open onto the table, revealing a photograph of Vermeer’s painting The Lacemaker (c. 1669-70), showing a young woman making a bobbin lace. This reference invites comparison between Vermeer’s depictions of middle-class interiors and the apparent middle-class interior of the apartment where most of Un Chien Andalou takes place. Also, Dalí was a great admirer of Vermeer’s paintings.


Sexual interest in watching others while remaining unseen. A common cultural trope is that there is something essentially voyeuristic about the cinema. Films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) explicitly play on this idea, the film scholar Laura Mulvey has discussed the theme in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975). An apparent instance of voyeurism takes place in Un Chien Andalou when the man becomes visibly aroused while he and the woman watch, through a window, the gender non-conforming figure get run over by a car, resulting in his sexually assaulting the woman in the following scene.