• 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...

Introduction

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 Dalí and Luis Buñuel 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 Dalí's writings in the Catalan avant-garde literary review L'Amic de les Arts, specifically La fotografia, pura creació de l'esperit (September 1927) and Film-arte, fil antiartístico (December 1927), the latter dedicated to his student-friend Buñuel. Dalí 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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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 Buñuel's skills as filmmaker (notwithstanding his ability to parody viciously church, state and cultural heritage) and Dalí's poetic use of Freudian iconography. Dalí'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)

    Freud's patriarchal notion of female fetishism is centred on the castration of femininity. On the contrary, the alien as archaic mother actually has the power to castrate, which becomes the locus of the horror throughout Alien. The metaphor of the 'mother alien' inscribed into the alien has the indiscriminating killing

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Critically analyse the Representation of the American Dream in American Beauty and Rocky.

    3 star(s)

    Rocky is about love and passion, not fighting and muscles. It's about having something inside that you know must be filled. Each person can finish the race if they just try hard enough. American Beauty and Rocky each show different sides to the American Dream. American Beauty rejects the dream.

  1. Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreams.

    I don't know why the producers changed this but it made it more interesting and more realistic than the book. Also the movie differed by having the author's house located in a different place than the books location. In the book the author lives in the hills outside of Boston,

  2. The Godfather "An offer you can't refuse!"

    His work was described as a style everybody "could not help, but notice". A lot of things concerning lighting actually came out of a necessity to deal with Marlon Brando, to give him "on screen" makeup. It was an example of designing something to make a character work which was later extended to the rest of the movie.

  1. Taking one film which used a Shakespeare play as a source, discuss the uses ...

    One shot may show hands holding on to the handle bars; another, the feet pushing the pedals down; followed by the flywheel turning the rear wheel; followed by the bike rolling down the path. By cutting these shots together in a logical, rhythmic sequence, the audience will experience bicycle riding.'20

  2. Woman as castrator: A psychoanalytic-feminist study of the castrating mother and Final Girl in ...

    Thus, the active investigating gaze emitting from the Final Girl contravenes the characterisation of the typical male gaze and manifests it into an active female gaze. This also flouts the notion from traditional cinema that it is not the man that maintains narrative direction and pace; it is the Final

  1. How do the cinematic techniques used in the opening reel of Citizen Kane illustrate ...

    It is placed on top of a far away hill, this symbolises seclusion. Xanadu is never a happy place for Kane. Xanadu was also inspired by many other sources such as the castle of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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

    The first scene is a furious montage of images, which reinforce, alter and corrupt what has gone before. There are a few occasions where it seems as though John is expecting something to happen - his attention is elsewhere and he looks puzzled and concerned.

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