Instead of stubbornly attempting to use surrealism for purposes of subversion, it is necessary to try to make of surrealism something as solid, complete and classic as the works of museums
People throw around the word “surrealism” in normal conversations without hesitation, like “this movie was so surreal,” or "this artist's work is a true piece of surrealism." The very definition of this word remains hazy to me, perhaps because it's not meant to make any sense. Surrealism is illogical, unreasonable, and mutable. To understand surrealism you need to look the other way and see what it doesn't represent, it certainly doesn't show a regular Joe doing typical things with regular objects. So if you watched a movie with a defined plot and sequence, then you certainly didn't watch a surrealist movie. A surrealist movie will wrench you away from reality, stimulate your unconscious, and drop you in terrifying dreamscape.
Salvador Dali was a pioneer in this movement, and besides painting and sculpting, he also ventured into filmmaking. For him a film should be "dumb, deaf, and blind," and is best enjoyed if it resembles a dream "with your eyes closed." With these intriguing images, we can't wait to see what he cooked up behind the camera.
Un Chien Andalou (1929)
This movie was done in collaboration with Luis Bañuel. It's a silent, black-and-white film that doesn't really have a story line. In the film, we can see things like a man sliding a woman’s eye with a knife, a hole on a human palm that bursts with ants, and a man dressed as a woman while riding a bike down an empty street. These odds scenes appear like flashes of dreams and as Dali's first attempt, it was a resounding surrealist success.
L'Age d'Or (1930)
Although this film was not directed by Dali, the screenplay was written by him. Dali and Buñuel decided to go their separate ways and Buñuel directed the film by himself. Yet, L'Age D'or is still credited in some part to Dali, and is another perfect example of surrealism in film. The film chronicles a romantic affair between a couple and how they contrast with the social, religious, and cultural mores of the time. This movie is noted for being the first sound film made in France and for being banned from the country and its redistribution.
This movie wasn't written or directed by Dali either, he was just hired to conceive some scenes in the movie, specially the day dreaming scenes. The movie is about a mental asylum doctor who is not what he claims to be. Dali’s scenes appear when a patience is describing his dreams, the sequence that follows is uncanny and highly detailed. Apparently his scenes were too long and had to be cut and placed at the end of the film.
This is an animated short film that began as a collaboration between Walt Disney and Dali. Although it its production began in 1945, it wasn’t complete until 2003, 58 years after. The movie features a woman day dreaming and dancing around statues, sand, and many other objects. Dali’s style and signature is recognizable, especially with the appearance of eyeballs and insects coming out of a statue’s hand –which we first saw in Un Chien Andalou (1929).
Dali's art question reality and it is no wonder his films weave illogical and dream-like universes. So, as we see a woman's eye being sliced to a beautiful woman dancing in a desert under the starlight, we are reminded of the endless possibilities that exist in this world, and how our imagination is our greatest source of beauty.
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