Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou Summary and Analysis of "Sixteen Years Earlier"


A new title reads, “Sixteen years earlier,” though the figures are in the exact same position as in the previous shot. The new man turns around in slow motion, and we find that he is in fact the very same man as the first. He approaches a school desk littered with ink as well as dirty books and paper. He grabs two books and carries them to his doppelgänger, who is still in the corner. Photographed in slow motion and in soft focus, he shakes his head and turns away from the first man. As the first man casts a look of anger on the second, those same books suddenly become pistols. He calls to the second man, who raises his hands and pleads for his life—again, throughout this he is photographed in slow motion and soft focus—only to be shot several times. As he collapses we find him now in a park, where in his collapse he tremblingly grasps the back of a nude woman wearing pearls, who then vanishes. Several pedestrians in the park approach his body and then examine it, checking for life. They then carry him out of the park.

The film returns to the apartment, where the woman passes through a door and stares at a spot on the wall, which we then see is a death’s-head moth. An iris shot closes in on the death’s head, and the film then cuts to the man—again in the apartment—seeming to establish an association between his head and the death’s head on the moth. The man grabs his mouth in horror, and then confidently removes his hand, leaving a mouthless face. The woman is visibly angry with him. Then, where his mouth had been, appears armpit hair, which we understand to be that of the woman, who examines her now-naked armpit in frustration and angrily charges through the door, sticking her tongue out at the man, who still wears her armpit hair in place of his mouth. But the woman passes not to another room, as we would expect, but to a windy beach, where she excitedly embraces a new, handsome man. He shows her his watch (showing the time to be 7:50), which she appears to ignore. As they walk together on the rocks of the beach, they come across the same linens and box with diagonal stripes, only now broken into pieces. The new man kicks away what remains of the box and, after examining the linens, he tosses them away as well.


In this moment we learn that the second man is the same as the first. But he is photographed in soft-focus and slow-motion, presumably in order to achieve the effect of making him look, as Buñuel and Dalí put it in their shooting script, “younger and more doleful.” He gives books to the first man, which become the pistols that he uses against the second man. Since the two men are identical, all of this, including the second man’s pleas for mercy, suggests a complicated process of self-annihilation. When the second man is shot, he collapses onto the naked back of a woman in a park, who then disappears. Her nudity recalls the first man’s fantasies of the woman’s naked body as he assaulted her. Also, the crowd that gathers around the man’s body recalls the crowd that had earlier gathered around the severed hand in the street—again furthering the film’s association between trauma and spectatorship.

The following scene between the first man and the woman is a continuation of their domestic drama, terminating with her permanent escape from the apartment. Note that, with the evident killing of the second man, his murderer, the first man (of whom the second was the doppelgänger) remains in the apartment. In this scene, the relationship between the two deteriorates into a series of mutual humiliations. This begins as the woman watches the death’s-head moth, after which we cut to a shot of the man’s head (suggesting an association between him and death, or suggesting an imminent death for him, as he had wrought for his doppelgänger). First the man suffers the embarrassment of losing his mouth; then, the woman suffers the embarrassment of having her armpit hair appear in the place of his mouth. (Recall that a woman’s armpit had earlier been paired, in a series of dissolves, with an earlier shot of the ants crawling out of the hole in the man’s hand.) It is with this last humiliation that the woman sticks her tongue out at him and leaves the room.

This exchange between the woman and the first man can be understood as a continuation of the film’s theme of trauma to the body, initiated by the first scene of Buñuel’s slicing that very same woman’s eye. With the first man’s losing his mouth and gaining in its place the woman’s armpit hair (which she herself loses), the film registers that, in whatever world we are in (perhaps the world of a dream), one cannot take for granted bodily integrity, or separateness between human bodies, as one can in the real world. This exchange of body parts between the woman and the first man is also another way in which the film suggests that gender identity is fluid. Indeed, the topic of gender identity should be kept in mind throughout this exchange, as it is the culmination of a struggle for domination, between the woman and the first man, within the bourgeois domestic space in which much of the film takes place.

Surprisingly, the woman enters not another room or interior, but a windy beach, where she is greeted by a new man, evidently her lover. Therefore, the woman has escaped the constraints of the interior in two senses: she has escaped the apartment (to which she had been confined for the entire film) for an expansive beach, and she has escaped the assaults and torments of the first man for a new one. Something like the latter escape is confirmed when she and her lover come across on the beach the first man’s white linens and box, only this time in tatters. As they gather up and examine these pieces, they can be understood to be gathering up the remnants of the first man, but also the remnants of the very film we have seen: after all, those linens and that box have been among the consistent visual tropes of the film, appearing just after the scene of the woman’s eye being sliced (i.e. just after the intertitle “Eight years earlier”).

In fact, the repressed “memory” of the original trauma of the first scene (of the woman’s eye being sliced) returns in the scene on the beach in at least three ways. First, her lover is wearing the same watch that Buñuel is shown wearing in that first scene. (This is made explicit in a close-up of the watch and the woman’s face, smiling at her lover.) Second, the ships passing along the horizon recall the thin cloud passing over the moon in the first scene, which served as a kind of visual substitute for the woman’s eye’s being sliced, before we see the actual act. And third, the diagonal stripes of the box in tatters have throughout the film recalled the downward motion of Buñuel’s razor in the first scene.