Luis Buñuel is one of the most iconic directors of avant-garde cinema of the 20th century, as well as one of the main film surrealists. Having moved to Paris in 1925, Buñuel very quickly makes connections with the creative beau monde of the city. He tells Salvador Dali, his friend and young artist, about his dream: a cloud passes through the moon and at the same time cuts the human eye. Dali, in turn, told a friend about his dream, which featured a human hand filled with ants. At the junction of two dreams, the famous film Andalusian Dog (1929) appeared. Let’s try to uncover the meaning of this extraordinary film.
The entire film, which runs for only twenty minutes, is built according to the logic of a dream. It does not have a holistic story, the picture is based on a system of symbols and metaphors that must be considered to understand what is happening. At the very beginning, as a prologue, the viewer sees the famous scene of cutting the woman’s eye with a razor – this is what can be interpreted as the need for the viewer to change the optics of perception in order to understand the further narrative. Given that the eye is cut by someone from the outside, we can talk about the violent actions of the director, who “forces” the viewer to watch the movie in a new way.
This action is interrupted by the intertitles “Eight years later”. Intertitles deceive the viewer into thinking that there is a chronology in the plot. However, this is not so: chronologically, the episodes are not connected and act, again, as a symbol of the meaninglessness of sleep, which can show both real events and long past ones. We see a young man riding a bicycle dressed as a nun. This can be as much a sarcastic reference to specific social norms within a religious system as it is an appeal to repressed inner desires, including those related to gender.
The strange clothes of a man are his inner passion, repressed desires, visualized in clothes. Through the keyhole in the box (a symbol of memory and, at the same time, of the female body), we move on to the image of a young girl reading in a room. Her attention to the box is attention to her own sexuality, her body. In the box (body and mind at the same time) a man’s garment is a tie, which means the presence of the opposite sex even within the intimate process of knowing oneself. A man appears with a hand covered in ants. Ants, where rot and decay – lust for what cannot be desired, make a man “rotten” from the inside. There are many sexual metaphors in the film – so the woman’s armpit becomes a visual allegory for the female genital organs.
This desire is “forbidden” – so the montage rhymes the armpit with a prickly sea urchin. Next, we see a man without a gender – a woman who is dressed and combed like a man (again playing with the image of the opposite sex). She indifferently looks at the severed hand of a young man – the one that symbolizes desire and lust. A woman can symbolize a mother who must remain sexless for a boy – but at the same time she closely examines his shameful sexual desire. Her death (a man is hit by a car) gives permission for the embodiment of intimate fantasies, so the man watching from the window, more and more decomposing, begins to pursue the girl standing next to him (also a “mother”). Behind him, in the literal sense, the visual embodiment of Christian morality is dragged by a heavy burden. Finally, he is stopped by his father, a faceless and formidable man in a hat. The young man kills him, continuing the line of the Oedipus complex.
The meaning of the finale of the film “Andalusian Dog” lies in the appeal to the image of a young girl. She looks at the moth on the wall, which embodies the symbol of her imminent death. The young man shows that she should not talk about their relationship, in response, the woman paints her lips and shows her tongue – she has her sexuality, but she does not belong to him (therefore, hair suddenly disappears from the armpits). The girl is with her new lover on the beach. They trample on the box, the one that holds the memory of her son’s sexual desires. At the end, both figures are buried, half-submerged in the sand. Their figures look like abandoned statues – a reminder of the turbulent youth of a woman who is doomed to turn into dust (we remember this since she saw a moth with a “dead” head on wings on the wall).