• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss the role of symbolism in Un Chien andalou.

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the role of symbolism in Un Chien andalou. Jean Goudal writing in 1925 expressed the view that the cinematic experience (medium, message and location) was the 'ideal means for the realization of surreality, of the marvellous' stressing its potential for the recreation of dream: 'The cinema [....] constitutes a conscious hallucination, and utilizes this fusion of dream and consciousness which Surrealism would like to see realized in the literary domain [....]. They should lose no time in imbuing their productions with the three essential characteristics of dream; the visual, the illogical, the pervasive.'1 It was another four years before Salvador Dal� and Luis Bu�uel worked together on Un Chien andalou (1929), a short (seventeen minutes) silent film, that is considered by critics (e.g. Rudolf Kuenzli2) to be one of only two or three truly Surrealist films produced (along with L'Age d'or (1930) and possibly Man Ray's L'etoile de mer (1928) or Antonin Artaud's and Germaine Dulac's La Coquille et le clergyman (1928).) The genesis of the film can be found in Dal�'s writings in the Catalan avant-garde literary review L'Amic de les Arts, specifically La fotografia, pura creaci� de l'esperit (September 1927) and Film-arte, fil antiart�stico (December 1927), the latter dedicated to his student-friend Bu�uel. Dal� emphasized that film could create visual images not available to painting, provoking a new way of seeing ('to look is to invent'3), and offering a medium for the recording and mediation (via the 'intervention' of director-producer) ...read more.


The mind subconsciously tries to grasp these conflicting signals, attempting to absorb this extradiegetic element into the main narrative development of the film, and in the process creates a subtle tension between rupture and realism. This subversion or unsettling of the viewer's response is a characteristic use of visual figuration (symbolism) throughout the film and represents an inversion of the metaphor- placed-in-syntagm (see Appendix I). In traditional film rhetoric, this is where a symbol ('vehicle' in structural linguistics) comments on the 'tenor' of an event (it's diegetic characteristic), after it has taken place. Reading such a metaphor requires the 'construction of a connotative system of the referents'13, or in plain English, the viewer needs to understand what it is about the moon and the sliver of cloud that symbolizes the cutting of the woman's eye. Unfortunately the inversion of their normal filmic relationship inhibits the viewer's comprehension as they (we) are not sure which contiguous scenes are diegetic and which extradietegic. As Williams observes the most significant aspect of this visual metaphor is how 'the meticulous building of an apparently realistic diegesis culminates in an outrageous and metaphoric act of violence, which unlike most film violence subverts the very realism of its discourse.'14 This technique is integral to the development of the whole film and at the highest level is intended to be symbolic, even representative, of the oneiric experiences of the individual's unconscious mind. ...read more.


As a cinematic concept Un Chien andalou, aims to replicate the mechanics and illusion of a dream. Its success is attributable to a combination of Bu�uel's skills as filmmaker (notwithstanding his ability to parody viciously church, state and cultural heritage) and Dal�'s poetic use of Freudian iconography. Dal�'s deployment of Freudian dream symbolism throughout the film parallels the multi-layered symbolic imagery seen in his painted works from 1929 onwards. A host of individual symbols and concepts crowd in on the viewer: fetishes (the feminine frills of the cyclist and their arrangement on the bed by the woman), male/female genitalia (concave-convex, spiky-hairy round shapes in the 'ants in hand' to 'androgyne's death' sequence), dismembered and mutilated organs (eyes, hands and even bodies), the juxtaposition of sexual passion and death (the cyclist begins his sexual pursuit following the androgyne's death), frustrated sexual desire (the pulling of the grand piano), and of course the initial sexual penetration symbolism of the much discussed 'razor cutting eye' sequence. In condensing the symbolism in this way the film functions as a conscious imitation of the 'rhetorical discourse of the unconscious' and it is up to the psychoanalyst to 'unpack' the latent meaning of the interlocking symbols. Semioticians, posing as pseudo-pyschoanalysts, have offered 'dream' interpretations that they claim uncover the intended meaning of Un Chien andalou. Linda Williams argues that that the eye mutilation sequence, followed by a mixture of male and female signs of sexual genitalia, reflects an assertion and denial of the presence of the phallus19. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Film Studies section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Film Studies essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Unpicking the monstrous: A Psychoanalytic and Marxist analysis of Alien.

    5 star(s)

    illustrates the film's imperialistic and antimilitarist qualities by the Company's implied imperial, multinational rule and its eschewal of a powerful military fortitude by having a single robot in charge of protecting and scientifically investigating the anatomy of the alien (Kavanagh in Kuhn, 1990: 78).

  2. 'The cinema spectator gazes, the TV viewer glances.'

    Because of the size of the screen, the quality and volume of the sound all the senses are focus on one thing, the 'Big' screen. Finally, because the cinema is a public place, social convention dictates certain behaviour. Certain noise such as laughter in a comedy is accepted however the

  1. Compare and contrast the uses and meanings of symbolism within the book and film ...

    are the same - they both signify death for him. It is as though the dwarf is Christine avenging her death - John effectively (in his mind) has killed Christine and the figure, who represents Christine, kills him. There is a neatness about this circle of ideas that becomes evident only when the film is studied in detail.

  2. To what extent does the work of Brian DePalma discuss either: identity, homage, or ...

    The same happens with Swan, another sexualised being, who takes advantage of these women's sexuality - he is killed in a scene where he marries Phoenix. The name 'Phoenix' is also an interesting point with regards to identity - Strauss (1997, pp.

  1. Dramatic Structure - Pulp Fiction (1994) Discuss a film that challenges the formulaic structure ...

    At this point in the film we don't know there names just that their occupation is holding up shops. Straight away we see intertexuality of a crime genre just from the dialogue used. The equilibrium here is that these people are happy and content with their lives as criminals, the

  2. How far does de Bernieres present Mandras as a 'lost soul'?

    Her new fianc� threw himself backwards upon the grass and howled with mirth." This is the first indication qualification of a slight defect on Mandras's character. It is the first sign of de Bernieres undermining Mandras by making a mockery of such an important societal value.

  1. Music's Role in "Casablanca"

    This is when Rick sends Ilsa away with Victor on the flight and moves on with his life. This could be the clip that helps Casablanca be the great love story that it is.

  2. Although in Paris, Texas and Two-Lane Blacktop mainly diegetic sounds are used, these sounds ...

    ?The point is to drive?? (Denzin, p.127), where Travis, however, ?does not desire even to see the road? (Cormigan, p.154) before he eventually realizes a ?desperate need to reclaim a family? (Cormigan, p.153) while reclaiming independence at the end of the movie.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work