As Richardson’s rightly suggests, ‘if a film could be viewed as surrealist under certain conditions, this does not make this or that film a ‘surrealist’ one. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘surrealist’ film. There are only films made by surrealists, or films, which have an affinity or correspondence with surrealism’ (Richardson, 6). Both Un Chien Andalou and Spellbound should be regarded in the mentioned respect.
Notwithstanding these film’s surrealist connotation, which are especially evident in Bunuel’s and Dali’s film, the first thing that links them to reality is formal techniques such editing, sequencing of images and events, structural elements, which unravel in real time, creating framework for interpretation. However, as Un Chien Andalou vividly exemplifies, at least formally surrealism also contradicts certain conventions in realist representation of reality. The latter is reflected in the absence of linear and logarithmic correlations and causal ties, recursive and programmable parallel sequences.
By means of exposing inner structure of the movie, the symbolic unity of cultural content is often broken and the audience is left in front of grotesque and estranged reality (Richardson, 67). In comparison to traditional realist approach, Un Chien Andalou lacks clear temporal and spatial coherence and logic. The plot in conventional sense is absent from the film and its temporal fabric is broken into pieces and temporal leaps – the starting sequence ‘once upon a time’ inadequately narrates the image sequence of man’s sharpening the razor and then slitting the eye of his wife with it.
The image of moon, being cut by the sharp object seems to create association with opened eye. The meaning of this scene, if interpreted in a strictly realist perspective is absent, as the episode is not explained and connoted in a coherent way. The absence of causal links between actions and implications create the atmosphere of nonsense. However, such an approach is not viable in this situation. The reality presented in this scene has dream logic, because it is filled with free associations and perceptive amplifications, which often have traumatic character.
One of the basic purposes of such surrealist technique is increasing human perception, which should result in deep penetration in one’s own Unconscious and Real’s structure. Therefore, the purpose of such cinematic sequence is not providing with clear understanding of the logic, but amplifying experience of Real as it is in its ugliness and absurdity. The next scene is ‘eight years later’ and has not direct linkage with the previous sequence, which means that perception is understood by the authors as blind to the memory and time, as it is the only means for portraying the Real in its condition.
This sequence is also filled with strange meanings and signs, which are seemingly impossible to interpret. The ‘lover’ wearing a nun’s clothing with a locked box on his neck. The same affect of fantasy is produced after the death of ‘lover’, when the ‘wife’ assembles the pieces of his clothing and he suddenly appears near the door, looking at his palm with the hole in it, from which many ants emerge.
The scene has similarities with traditional method, used in horror films, however, its purposes are different, which is proved by the following episodes. The sequence is cut to the street, where an androgynous subject is poking at a cut hand, surrounded by the crowd, policemen etc. When a cut hand is finally placed by the police in ‘lover’ box, the blind androgynous figure is left alone in the middle of the street and then ran down by the car.
The ‘lover’, being affected by this sudden death, becomes aggressive and tries to sexually offense the ‘wife’. As in the previous case, the analyzed sequence lacks clear logical links between its episodes. However, the episodes often seem to convey assertive meanings by themselves. The episode, when the ‘lover’ exposes his sadist essence after the death of blind figure, is obviously an allusion to Freudian concept of ‘will to death’, as deeply ties sexual desire with finite nature of human existence.