Un Chien Andalou
The surrealist silent creation known as Un Chien Andalou (The Andalusian Dog) gave inspiration to all low budget film makers was created by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. It was produced in France in 1929. One thing that can be said about this 16-minute oddity is that it is not for the faint-hearted; it certainly aims to shock, which is evident in the opening scene depicting a husband cutting the eye of a somber wife close up. Don't worry though, as they still had their special effects so it's ok to come from behind the sofa.
The Plot and Reasoning
The original idea came from a conversation between Buñuel and Dalí about the dreams they had experienced. Dalí said that he had dreamt about a hand crawling with ants, while Buñuel said that his dream had been about the moon being covered by a cloud, almost like an eye being slit with a razor blade. From there they went on to wonder what other ideas can be pulled from suppressed human thought.
Its creators were keen to express the fact they had intended to have no rational thinking or plot. Its one rule was that nothing which could be symbolic or explained in any way could be used in the film. In fact, Buñuel said in the 1970s that the film was not intended to represent or symbolize anything, and therefore any meaning that critics or scholars found could only be extracted through psychoanalysis.
This is therefore the reason why the film doesn't follow a chronological order, instead choosing to jumble up the scenes. For example, it starts with a card saying 'Once upon a time' which is followed later by another card that reads 'Eight years later', although the characters do not seem to have changed.
The scenes too are full of strange images and weird special effects. While the most famous scene is without doubt the slitting of the eye, which was achieved using strong lighting and the eye of a dead calf, there are a number of other odd scenes. At one point, one of the main characters picks up a couple of ropes and begins dragging a collection of strange items, including two pianos filled with dead donkeys, stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them, and two confused looking priests (one of which is played by Salvador Dalí himself). According to some, the donkeys are a reference to the work Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez, which both Buñuel and Dalí loathed. There were going to be more scenes, including one of two corpses covered with flies, however the filmmakers ran out of money and so this scene had to be scrapped.
Reception and Legacy
Dalí and Buñuel had expected a negative response from society towards the film during the late 1920's, so much so that they had filled their pockets with rocks in case of a fight at the screening. To their surprise the audiences were fascinated by it and the film became popular between fellow surrealists, meaning that both Dalí and Buñuel became accepted members of the surrealist group. Dalí famously said that this positive reaction made the screenings less exciting; however it did mean that the original short period of showings of Un chien andalou was extended to a period of 8 months.
Needless to say, the film has an extremely dark tone throughout and tragically the main characters both commit suicide in the following years. However, it is also because of this that the film has acquired such a big cult following. In fact, Un Chien Andalou is often still shown today at various film festivals across the world. It has also been a major influence on a number of artists and musicians, including the Pixies. It has become a reference point for the bizarre and the surreal, and has therefore also been referred to in many books and TV shows over the years.
Following the success of Un Chien Andalou, Buñuel and Dalí co-wrote another piece called L'Age D'or. However, just before its production, the pair fell out which meant that the painter had no part in the actual making of the film. This film also did its fair share to stir up controversy, considered to be an outright attack on the Roman Catholic Church.