Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a 1928 short surrealist film made in France by two Spanish auteurs: the Aragonian director Luis Buñuel and the Catalonian artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel's first film and was initially released in 1929 in Paris only for a limited showing, but became popular and ran for eight months. It is one of the best-known surrealist films of the avant-garde movement of the 1920s.
The film has no narrative, in the conventional sense of the word. There are two central characters, an unnamed man and woman, who seem to be having an affair. The film could be seen as a symbolic study of the emotions and societal pressures that cause their separation and the ending of their affair, and the fateful consequences of their discovery by the man's "father" and the woman's "husband".
The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial "once upon a time" to "eight years later" without the events or characters changing that much. It uses dream logic that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes that attempt to shock the viewer's inner psyche.
The subsequent title card reads "eight years later". A slim younger man, the "lover" (Pierre Batcheff), bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun's habit and carrying a locked box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the "wife", who has been waiting anxiously in a well-furnished upstairs room, hears the "lover" approaching on his bicycle and throws aside the book she has been reading to look out the window. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the "lover" after witnessing him collapse.
Later, the woman assembles pieces of the "lover's" clothing on a bed in the upstairs room, and seemingly through thought, causes the "lover" to appear near the door. The "lover" and the "wife" analyze his hand, which has a hole in the palm from which ants emerge. A slow transition occurs focusing on the armpit hair of an unknown figure and a shrub at a sandy location, then showing an androgynous blind figure, the "detective", who is poking at a severed hand in the street below with a cane while surrounded by an upset crowd and the police.
The crowd clears when the police place the hand in the box the "lover" had, and the "detective" stands contemplating in the middle of a busy street before being run down by a car. The "lover" seems to take sadistic pleasure in the blind figure's danger and subsequent death, and as he asks the shocked "wife's" opinion, he grasps her bosom. The "wife" resists him at first, but then allows him to feel her as he imagines her nude. The "wife" pushes him away as he drifts off mentally and attempts to escape by running to the other side of the room. The "lover" corners her as she reaches for a racket in self-defense, but he suddenly is forced to drag two grand pianos containing dead and rotting donkeys, stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, and two rather bewildered priests (played by Jaime Miravilles and Salvador Dalí) who are attached by ropes. As he is unable to move, the "wife" escapes the apartment.
A transition to "three in the morning" occurs. The "lover" is roused from his sleep in the apartment by the sound of a doorbell (represented by the shaking of a martini shaker by a set of arms through two holes in a wall). The "lover's" "father" (also played by Pierre Batcheff) seemingly arrives to punish him for his lecherous actions against the "wife", and a chase around the apartment ensues. The "lover" eventually shoots his "father" with two books he picks up that abruptly turn into pistols; the "wife" comes into the apartment to confront the "lover" and is shocked by what has happened. The "lover" subsequently makes her armpit hair attach itself to where his mouth should be on his face through gestures. The "wife" looks in shock and disgust at the "lover", and leaves the apartment sticking her tongue out at him.
As she exits her apartment, the street is replaced by a coastal beach. The "wife" meets the "husband" on the beach. They seem to walk away clutching each other happily in a long tracking shot. However, the film abruptly cuts to the final shot, showing the couple buried in sand up to their shoulders, presumably dead after the unknown events of the opening scene, bringing the film full circle.
The eye that was actually sliced in the opening scene was that of a dead calf. Through intense lighting, Buñuel attempted to make the furred face of the animal appear as human skin. During the bicycle scene, the woman who is sitting on a chair, reading, throws the book aside when she notices the man who has fallen. The image it shows when it lays open is a reproduction of a painting by Vermeer. Vermeer was a Dutch painter greatly admired by Salvador Dalí, whom he referenced often in his own paintings. In Buñuel's original script, the last shot was to feature the corpses "consumed by swarms of flies". However, this special effect was left out due to budget limitations.
Given the general French public's distaste for surrealism, Buñuel and Dalí carried sacks of rocks in their pockets on opening night as self-defense, expecting a negative response from the audience. They were disappointed when the audience enjoyed the film, making the evening "less exciting", according to Dali.
The movie contains several thematic references to Federico García Lorca (who was in love with Salvador Dalí) and other writers of that time. For example, the rotting donkeys are a reference to the popular children's novel "Platero y yo" by Juan Ramón Jiménez, which Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí hated. Both of the leading actors eventually committed suicide; Batcheff overdosed on Veronal on April 13, 1932 in a hotel in Paris and Mareuil committed self-immolation on October 24, 1954 by dousing herself in gasoline and burning herself to death in a public square in Perigueux, Dordogne.
Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner's Liebestod, the concert version of the finale to his opera Tristan und Isolde, and a recording of the Argentinian tango "Ole guapa". This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel's supervision.
In spite of varying interpretations made since the film originated, Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was that "no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. Moreover, he stated that, "Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.
Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un chien andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video. Roger Ebert has called it the inspiration for low budget independent films. Premiere ranked the opening scene as 10th out of "The 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History".
Un Chien Andalou was mentioned in the book "How To Become Famous and Influence People", by Adam Selzer. The movie serves as inspiration for the main character, Leon Harris.
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