15/08/2016

Un Chien Andalou - Meaning, Cinema And The Dream

Thoughts On: An Andalusian Dog


The infamous surrealist short from Dalí and Buñuel.


Unbeknownst to any of my viewers, I've wanted to talk about this film for a long time, and have even tried once or twice. I've wanted to write about An Andalusian Dog because seeing it for the first time was a formative cinematic experience for me as a writer. But, when I've tried to talk about the film on the blog before, I wanted to discuss all of its minute details, explaining what each moment could mean, or what they mean to me. This, however, never panned out because this is a filmic experience, and in itself, a film, that is almost opposed to that philosophy. It's in my writings that Un Chien Andalou has inspired ambiguity, inspired imagery that may be imbued with implimence, but not concrete, equative meaning. And it's surrealism, that which Buñuel and Dalí portray, that attempts to reveal the Freudian subconscious through sensory and emotive cinema. The according philosophy of surrealist film is then of irrationality, is of a nature you cannot nomothetically pull apart and explain. It's then this philosophy that is opposed to what I've wanted to, and in large part do, on this blog - explain movies. What Un Chien Andalou instead represents and teaches anyone interested in cinema is the fundamental idea of fantasy and imagination inherent to the art form. I've talked about this subject of fantasy before with posts like those on The Matrix, but fantasy is an extension of the human imagination that isn't satisfied. Tarkovsky says is best with:

"Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world."

His point here is not really that the world is imperfect and that it should be better. His point encompasses the artist in respect to perspective. We create art because we see the world as imperfect, we look around at cities, at oceans, the sky, space beyond, technology before our faces, under our fingers and we look through organic devices attached to incomprehensibly complex structurings, chemicals, pathways and interactions yet we still want more, we think this is not good enough, or, at the least could be better. I daren't critique this kind of thinking because it is inherently human and to deny drive, to deny need and want, to deny curiosity, would be to lie. Instead, what I'm trying to demonstrate, as I think Tarkovsky may be, is that we project the ill-design in us onto the world. It's drive, need, want, curiosity that both gave us electricity and medicine, but also war, greed, suffering in ourselves and put upon others. If we didn't have the human ingenuity and agitation, we would be a bunch of mindless hippies in love with the universe at best, but a horde of animals, in tune with nature, but completely unaware of our existence in all probability. The world, to the hippie and horde, would be perfect - and only because their internal schematics saw it as such. So, Tarkovsky's point and mine is that art comes from imperfection. Take that a step further as we just have and we can recognise art as coming from need, drive, want, curiosity; from an irrational human essence, something broken within us. How this irrationality has been most accessibly explained is with Freud and his theory of the unconscious mind. Whether its with complexes that have us want to sleep with our mother, or play with our faeces, Freud sees breaks in the wirings of the human mind that express themselves without our say-so, or know-so. This expression is fantasy, dreams and buried associations of memory and emotion. When you look at the world, especially of art, through the Freudian looking-glass you fall down a postmodern rabbit hole where meaning is so fruitful it's almost negligible, no one idea much more helpful, nor valid, than another. To clarify, it's best we turn to our film at hand, An Andalusian Dog.

Un Chien Andalou is comprised of images and happenings that are somewhat related, with the stitching of juxtaposition having to be of our own design. The audience decides what, for example, a moon has to do with an eye in other words, but, the stitching never shows itself and never explains itself. The design of this film is then meant to imitate a dream - the human subconsciousness. The question then raised by this is: why are we watching the film? This question may not be obvious at first, but considering this film as a dream, Buñuel's or Dalí's, and that a dream is a personal story only a dreamer can understand, well, what hopes to we have of comprehending what Un Chien Andalou talks about? The answer to this draws our existential magnifying glass back from human internals and subconsciousness, to the possibilities of a collective consciousness. Dreams are memories interacting with perception and experience. They are our own biases playing against 'reality' creating out own personal shades of reality that we perceive and live in. To what degree are our own lives and realities comparable to the next man's? There of course isn't a solid answer to this, but I can offer my opinion. I see humans fundamentally as machines. We are sacks of flesh, hormones, networks of arteries, veins, capillaries, axons, dendrons, neurotransmitters, muscle, water, bile, saliva, blood and urine. This is true for all humans - this is true for a lot of life forms. And this fundamental orchestration of organs, flesh and bone prepares us for reality in a similar way. This is what draws us together. What's deeper and more profound is that across all life, there is an inherent quantum connection - and it comes from the atoms we are all made of. By their own rules we strive to understand, atoms and their quantum parts exist in paradigm, rule and pattern - just as the macroscopic world. This means that whilst we all live in a reality dictated by the gravity keeping us on this orb of molten, semi-molten and solid rock, metal and dirt, we also live in a world dictated by the duality of the photon, entangled particles, relativity, supposed dark matter and spacetime. We cannot feel or perceive some of these forces and laws in our everyday, but they guide how we live intrinsically, and in ways we couldn't imagine. This means that the catastrophe of just switching off gravity is, relative to human life, just as poignant as just switching off dark matter, or the speed of light. That all then suggests that there are laws, paradigms, patterns and rules around us that dictate perceived reality that bind us together. We all live with atoms and under the influence of gravity and so, in a certain respect, we all live in the same world.

It's then consciousness, or the mind that can experience, that begins to separate us, that induces the debate of nature and nurture. Nature is all that we've discussed, from our biology to the physical law of the universe. Nurture is the ill-designed and irrational breaks in our minds interacting with nature or reality. The result of experience nurturing our existence is then fundamentally a journey toward understanding. Experience is seeing the world. Living is not dying - and that's what our bodies want - not to die. So, the job of the mind is experiencing the world in a way that won't result in the body dying or coming to harm - understanding, learning, growing (away from danger and stupidity). This is exactly where need, want, drive and curiosity comes from. Need is survival - we all feel we need to live, no question about it. Want is requiring standards of living - of having life, but wanting a good one. Drive is the fuel that keeps the fires of 'want' burning - it's working for a living, for more money, food, a better life. Curiosity is the road from wanting to having, it's wishing you could live forever and in a perpetually bettering state, but then deciding to go out into the world and find the means, stumble upon penicillin, create the atom bomb. What the crucial takeaway from this, from the difference between nature and nurture is, comes to an idea of acceptance. Nature is accepted reality. Nurture is envisioned reality. Nurture has a veil pulled over your eyes, and the seed planted in your brain that says this could be better. What humans then live in is tantamount to a tug of war. We live lives bound by gravity and Einstein's relativity. We knows this and, in certain respects, feel it. We accept that 'reality' is a thing. But, we also have questions, we have dreams that can, and may well eventually be projected onto reality, changing it forever. Humans, with our ill-design are then in a conscious forefront between the construction and the acceptance of reality. Understanding this, you see the truth of our disconnect and connect. It's nature that connects, and nurture that separates. But, the tug of war is in progress. We aren't the horde, we aren't the hippie, we aren't telekinetically connected in peace and unification either. This is what Un Chien Andalou stands for by trying to project a dream, to have individuals who have not lived in the mind of Dalí or Buñuel have their own shade of comprehension over their art, life, work and unconsciousness.

So, we come back to the question: why watch the film? The answer is that we are testing the boundaries of nurture and nature, we are testing if and how we compare to others. This test holds no answers though, the test is more like a gateway. The gateway is toward numbness, occupation and, quite simply, entertainment. We cannot know exactly how someone else perceives An Andalusian Dog because we can't feel as they do, we cannot experience the cogs of their mind (as dictated both by nature, being human, but also a human that has led a different life) spinning as they perceive it - in the same respect we couldn't feel or experience Dalí or Buñuel's thought process as they created this film. What does happen when we discuss or watch this film with others, however, is a projected idea of connection. We can get a rough feeling of what Dalí, Buñuel's, a friend's unconsciousness is like through watching. It's the allusion art constructs that then allows people to communicate in ways other than simply talking or interacting. It's then art that starts to fill in the gaps of the ill-designed mind. It's because people perceive life with their eyes and with a partly/largely unconscious mind that film exists, that that surrealist philosophy of cinema exists. We cannot say what is attempted to be said with Un Chien Andalou with a speech, with a book, with a play, with music or dance and that is precious because humans want to understand through any avenue we can. The avenue of cinema is projected fantasy, most purely, through surrealist film. But, if Gene Kelly has a red-purple-blue glowing emotion in his chest he wants to share, he sings in the rain and we get to feel something in the realm of what he may have felt. If Scorsese, De Niro, Schrader feel a putrid, yellow-brown-black disconnect in their gut, they can ask "you talkin' to me?" and that question may burn in our abdomen too. If Stallone feels itching aggravation, pressure that must be pushed against, a pull that must be met, he may translate that from Philadelphian streets, through montage, to a ring and a shaken 'Adrian, I did it!' straight to the visceral poundings in our chests. That is fantasy, that is cinema, and that is the dream of the broken mind searching for understanding in a world it refuses to entirely accept.

Through and through, what Un Chien Andalou means is a question not answered with explanation, but exploration. You feel what An Andalusian Dog means to you, and you then hope, think or glance toward an idea of that feeling aligning with and in others. That is the biggest take away of this film - it's the essence of art and of cinema as an art form. It is the communication of the irrational, the hidden and the insurmountable. It is the journey that conjures emotions, that occupies the mind, that momentarily fills gaps.

Please check out Receptacle Infinity to find out why Un Chien Andalou is apart of the Receptacle Series...


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