's legendary first film, Un Chien Andalou
written with Salvador Dalí
, created a scandal at its premiere and its startling eye-slicing opening sequence has continued to shock viewers ever since. Despite Buñuel and Dalí's energetic rejections of any rational meaning in the film, Un Chien Andalou
is an exploration of desire and the obstacles in the path of instinctual passion, equally indebted to Surrealism and Freud
The idea for the film began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein
in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half "like a razor blade slicing through an eye". Dalí responded that he'd dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions. For many years (and still), published and unpublished reports have circulated that Buñuel had used a dead pig’s eye, or that of a dead sheep, or of a dead donkey, or other animal, in the notorious eyeball-slicing scene. However, in an interview, Buñuel claimed that he had used a dead calf’s eye. Through the use of intense lighting, Buñuel attempted to make the furred face of the animal appear as human skin.
In Buñuel's original script, the last shot was to feature the corpses "consumed by swarms of flies". However, this special effect was left out due to budget limitations. Legend has it that, when they screened the film for the group of noted European artists calling themselves ‘surrealists’, they carried sacks of rocks in their pockets on opening night as self-defence, expecting a negative response from the audience. They were disappointed when the audience enjoyed the film, making the evening ‘less exciting’, according to Dalí. Thereafter, both Buñuel and Dalí were accepted figures in the surrealist movement.
The movie contains several thematic references to Federico García Lorca
and other writers of that time. For example, the rotting donkeys are a reference to the popular children's novel Platero y yo
by Juan Ramón Jiménez
, which Buñuel and Dalí hated.
Both of the leading actors of the film eventually committed suicide: Batcheff
overdosed on Veronal on April 13, 1932 in a hotel in Paris, and Mareuil
committed self-immolation on October 24, 1954 by dousing herself in gasoline and burning herself to death in a public square in Périgueux, Dordogne.