Luis Buñuel, Fano Messan, Robert Hommet, Jaime Miravilles, Salvador Dalí, Marral, Jeanne Rucar
Silent with French intertitles
Date of Release
June 6, 1929
Setting and Context
A city apartment, a city street, a wooded park, a beach, a desert-like expanse of sand
Narrator and Point of View
For most of the film the camera takes an apparently objective point of view. Nevertheless, there are occasional point-of-view shots: for example, from the point of view of the woman on the man on the bicycle; from the point of view of the man and the woman on the gender non-conforming figure in the street; and from the point of view of woman on her lover on the beach. A question in viewing the film is whether it is in fact an elaboration on a series of themes taking place in one consciousness (on the model of a dream).
Tone and Mood
Whimsical, playful, defiant
Protagonist and Antagonist
At least during the scene of the assault in the apartment, the man can be understood as the antagonist and the woman as the protagonist.
There is no major conflict as one might appear in a conventional plot. Nevertheless, the main characters throughout the film suffer from instability of identity. In the case of the man, this instability stems from losing body parts (like his mouth) as well as encountering his younger, overbearing doppelgänger. In the case of the woman, this instability also stems from losing body parts (like her armpit hair) as well as her suffering trauma to her eye.
The film contains three apparent "endings": (1) the death of the man's doppelgänger, whose body is carried out by a group in a wooded park; (2) the meeting of the woman and her lover on the beach, and their encounter of the box and linens in tatters on the beach; and (3) the film's final shot, showing the man and the woman buried up to their torsos in sand.
The first scene of the slicing of the woman's eyeball can be understood as foreshadowing the later trauma of the film: (1) the ants crawling out of the hole in the man's hand; (2) the encounter by the gender-non-conforming figure with a severed hand in the street; (3) the gender-non-conforming figure being hit by a car; (3) the man sexually assaulting the woman in the apartment; (4) the trauma to the eyes of the donkeys on the pianos; (5) the man shooting his own doppelgänger; and (6) the man and the woman being buried up to their torsos in sand.
Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques
The film relies on familiar cinematic techniques. Nevertheless, use of these traditional techniques to convey unfamiliar and paradoxical effects is one of its significant innovations.
The woman examines a book with Johannes Vermeer's painting The Lacemaker reproduced in it. Also, the film critic Elza Adamowicz has suggested that there are allusions in the eye-slicing scene to earlier depictions of trauma to the eye in cinema: for example, in Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902) and in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925). Adamowicz has also suggested that the severed hand and the identical room in the apartment might be allusions to similar tropes in Louis Feuillade's Fântomas film series. Moreover, Adamowicz has suggested that Buñuel's appearance as the "criminal" wielding a razor in the first scene, only to disappear after the "crime," might also be an allusion to the Fântomas series.
The film's depiction of space is especially paradoxical. For example, when the woman apparently escapes her male attacker in the apartment, she enters an identical room with that same man lying on the bed. Later in the film she leaves the same room, only to step onto a windy beach. Moreover, when the man shoots his doppelgänger, the latter collapses in a completely new space: a wooded park. Each of these scenes is photographed and edited to suggest that these spaces are physically continuous—rather than simply identical or physically discontinuous—thereby heightening the paradox.
The trauma to the eye in the first scene is paralleled in (1) the cloud's passing over the moon in the same scene; (2) the donkeys' missing eyes in the appearance on the pianos; and (3) the recurrence of stripes throughout the film, for example on the box, as well as on the tissue paper and necktie contained inside the box.
Un Chien Andalou Questions and Answers
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