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Horror Education of the Week: ‘Un Chien Andalou’

Luis Buñuel was once asked how he’d spend the rest of his life if he were only given a certain amount of time to live. His reply was, “give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other 22 in dreams – provided I can remember them.

Un Chien Andalou, the 1929 short film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, began with a simple conversation the men had at a restaurant about dreams. Buñuel had dreamt about a cloud slicing the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye.” Dalí topped him with a dream about ants crawling out of a hand.

The two, overwhelmed with the power of the human mind, and how it could produce such dreams from suppressed emotions, went to work on a script. They vowed that each image they created would piece to the next – having no rational explanation – and ended up creating some of the earliest iconic visions of horror.

Un Chien Andalou was one of the first independent movies to be made on a tiny budget, without a studio.

– Though the filmmakers intended otherwise, people have tried to make sense of the film for years by giving explanation to certain scenes.

– The ants crawling from the hand, for example, is said to be an attack on the church, with the wound appearing much like the crucified Christ.

– Many other scenes are said to have the same irreverence towards the institution of Catholicism – including characters in religious costumes.

– The infamous eye slicing scene was debate for many years as well. Was it real? Was it fake? Was it a dead pig’s eye, a dead sheep, or of a dead donkey?

– The effect was actually achieved by using dramatic lighting on a dead calf’s face, making it appear human for the brief scene. If you watch closely, you can see the fur of the animal.

– The two lead actors both committed suicide. Pierre Batcheff overdosed on Veronal – a slow acting hypnotic used as a sleep aid at the time – in 1932. After World War II, lead actress Simone Mareuil fell into a deep depression and ended up dousing herself in gasoline and burning herself to death in a public square.

– The lyrics of the Pixies song ‘Debaser’ are based on the film. “Got me a movie/I want you to know/Slicin’ up eyeballs/I want you to know.

-Pixies singer Frank Black said, “I wish Buñuel was still alive. He made this film about nothing in particular. The title itself is a nonsense. With my stupid, pseudo-scholar, naive, enthusiast, avant-garde-ish, amateurish way to watch Un chien andalou (twice), I thought: ‘Yeah, I will make a song about it.’ [He sings:] “Un chien andalou”… It sounds too French, so I will sing “un chien andalusia”, it sounds good, no?




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