What is dream and what is reality? The Surrealists have been asking this question for decades, provoking our minds with uncanny images that blur the line between fantasy and actuality. Though Surrealist painting, such as that by Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte presents us with a picture of a dream world, Surrealist photography and film goes one step further by showing us these inconceivable dreams in the real world. In films such as Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and Un Chien Andalou directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí the viewer witnesses the bizarre, the uncanny, and the horrific occur, unsure of what is in fact real or a figment of the imagination.
SPOILER ALERT! The 1948 film, Meshes of the Afternoon, directed by Maya Deren is a beautiful yet horrific presentation of a woman’s nightmare and paranoid struggles, over the length of an afternoon that ends in her inexplicable death. Full of standard Surrealist objects such as mirrors, shadows, eyes, and a loaf of bread the film is reminiscent of Dali’s paintings such as Basket of Bread (1945). From the eerie shadows, to the mirror-faced man, and the vertigo inducing stair scene, the film itself is absolutely gorgeous. Swaying between dream and reality the nature character’s death remains a mystery and we are left wondering was it self inflicted due to sleep walking or a horrible dream come true? See the full film in the previous post below!
Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s 1929 film Chien de Andalou is more of a mystery than Meshes of the Afternoon, where as Deren’s film had a loose plot/narrative Chien de Andalou has no plot whatsoever. This film is the epitome of Surrealism, it is a dream (or nightmare ) to become lost in and captivated by. Its grotesque beauty and idiosyncrasies such as the infamous eye cutting scene and Dali’s signature ants emerging from the body are simultaneously captivating and revolting. The kind of poetic beauty found in Deren’s film will not be found here, but instead a guttural feeling of distress and discomfort presented in an artistic guise. Watch the full film in the previous post below!