Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou Summary and Analysis of "Around Three in the Morning"


A new intertitle now reads, “Around three in the morning.” We see a new man—always from behind, never from the front—approach the apartment door. The sound of his ringing the doorbell is represented visually by two hands shaking a cocktail shaker through holes in the wall. After the woman lets him in, he enters the room and begins yelling commands at the first man, who looks frightened and confused. He then yanks the first man out of bed and tears off his linens, which he then throws over the balcony. The first man tries to save the straps he used to wear the box, but the second man notices that and throws them off as well. He then commands the first man to stand in the corner and, despite the latter’s mild protests, hold a crucifix position under the tennis racket (which the woman had previously used to protect herself).


In this scene, we are introduced to the doppelgänger: the man ringing the doorbell (symbolized by the shaking of a cocktail shaker, an item of particular importance to Buñuel, a cocktail aficionado) will turn out to be, although we do not learn this until the after the following intertitle (“Sixteen years earlier”), the double of the first man. As always when a doppelgänger appears in a film, we must entertain the notion of a split consciousness. Since the second man orders the first man around, forcibly tearing off the linens and the box (only for the first man to try to kill the second), we can suppose that he, like the Marist Brothers in the earlier scene, symbolizes the man’s super-ego.

Throughout, the film has been marked by a bourgeois domestic conflict between the First Man and the Woman. With this scene, and the First Man’s conflict with his double, it appears that the First Man has internalized that struggle, constituting a kind of self-division or self-hatred. The film scholar Elza Adamowicz has noted that the acting in Un Chien Andalou is a pastiche of the exaggerated emotions of 1920s melodrama (Adamowicz 75). Perhaps nowhere in the film is this more evident than in Pierre Batcheff’s exaggerated acting, and exaggerated responses to the Second Man, suggesting that in a struggle for his own identity (with his double) the stakes are particularly high, eliciting these exaggerations.

Moreover, in this scene the Second Man enacts a kind of conspiracy between himself, the Woman, and even the audience, against the First Man. After all, it is the Woman who lets the Second Man into the apartment, and his verbal assault of the First Man constitutes a relief for the woman from the First Man’s assault on her. And before the Second Man (in the following scene) is revealed as the double of the First Man, we never see his face, and at least once we take his point of view (we we see the First Man on the bed). In other words, the Second Man initially acts as a kind of “empty subject,” or empty role for the audience to occupy: we are throughout invited to take his point of view. This “conspiracy” reaches its apex in the Second Man’s finally punishing the First Man, quite possibly for his assault on the Woman: he forces the First Man to stand in a crucifix-like position in the very corner where he had earlier assaulted the Woman, the tennis racquet she had used to protect herself hung just above his head, his stance in the corner recalling his gestures while earlier grabbing the Woman’s breasts.

Importantly, in this scene the Second Man forcibly separates the First Man from the box with diagonal stripes: that is, he separates the First Man from the item with which he has been associated since his first appearance in the film. (The box has also been associated with the various traumas so far depicted throughout the film: its diagonal stripes recall the downward motion of Buñuel’s blade in the first scene, and it is the box into which, in the previous scene, the policeman had placed the severed hand.) Thus, this separation from the box constitutes a kind of castration by the Second Man. (The following scene, in which the First Man shoots the Second Man, then constitutes a kind of revenge for that castration.)

An interesting formal or structural issue arises when the Second Man throws the box and the white linens out of the window of the apartment: Where do they go? The film suggests two different answers, both involving distortions of time and space. First, this might be how the box ended up in the possession of the policeman on the street in the previous scene: but then that suggests that the box, in being thrown out the window, somehow traveled back in time, since the narrative of that scene is clearly continuous with that of the current scene. (It is when the First Man sees the androgynous figure hit by a car, while holding the box, that he initiates his assault on the Woman.) Second, when the Woman and her lover later encounter the box and linens in tatters on the beach, this suggests that these items, in being thrown out the window, somehow end up on that beach. This distortion in space—where the apartment and the beach are somehow spatially contiguous—is at least consistent with the moment, in the following scene, when the Woman steps out of the door of the apartment and onto the windy beach.