The Origins of Surrealism In Cinema

                         Surrealism emphasis's image rather than word, a feeling rather than thought. Surrealism emerged as the European cultural/artistic movement in the 1920s. Surrealists were prominent in the areas of painting, literature and the cinema.

                       Surrealism was founded as a movement by Andre Breton in the mid-1920s. The movement issued manifestos and declared themselves enemies of Bourgeois society. Many were Marxists who wanted to transform society and held a romantic faith in the power of art. Many were influenced by the 'untutored' art of madness, children and so called primitive art forms. They wanted to create something more real than reality itself.

Cinema And The Surrealism

                    Surrealist cinema developed in the period of 1924-30 and was more radical in aims and content than impressionist films. Surrealist film-makers were forced to work outside the commercial film industry and to rely on private backing. Surrealists were naturally attracted to cinema, because of the cinema's attempt to re-present the world in a darkened room, the individual experience, the manipulation of time and space, editing etc. They were influenced by films that presented untamed desire (Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu). 

                      Painters such as Salvador Dali dabbled in film as did its most famous film-maker Luis Bunuel Bunuel referred to the cinema as 'the best instrument to express the world of dreams, of emotions, of instinct.' Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) 1928 and L'Age D'or (The Age of Gold) 1930 are the famous collaborations between Bunuel and Dali. Andalusian Dog has the themes of sexual desire and violence, ecstasy, blasphemy and bizarre humor. The Age of Gold is a full scale attack on bourgeois culture. The film caused riots when it was first screened and was banned until 1970s. 

Understanding Surrealism

                 Central to the reasoning of surrealism is their notion of freedom. Surrealists felt letdown and restricted by the rational, bourgeois society to whom many of Europeans belonged. They wanted freedom from the constraints, conventions and restrictions of bourgeois life and saw art as a means to achieve this. 

                  Many surrealists held more complex/revolutionary views. They wanted to change society and peoples perception of the world. Surrealism challenged reason and modernity and favored the magical and mystical. They aimed to derange meaning, to upset, disorientate and shock. Surrealists wanted to liberate western culture from what they saw as the tyranny and repression of reason and to reveal the true nature of reality. Referring to the work of Freud, they believed that only when the mind was in its semi-conscious or dream states could liberation be achieved. 

Absence of Narrative

               Surrealist film-makers rejected conventional narrative forms and sought to liberate the film and the spectator from narrative itself. Such films serve to focus attention upon narrative itself and upon filmic process of constructing meaning and upon the relationship between the film and its audience. Narrative and continuity expectations are denied and an absence of narrative logic defies us to impose any meaning on events. 

               Surrealists attempt to disrupt narrative conventions of time and space, of plot, character and causality. To disorientate to spectator and render to unconscious, irrational world of dreams. Often through a series of powerful, seemingly unconnected images. Point of view shots, a mixture of discontinuity and continuity editing and the unexpected juxtaposition of images were often used to shock and disorientate the spectator.

                Within the art of a surrealist we encounter the same characteristics that great thinkers and philosophers possess. Surrealist films temporarily arrests our mind's conventional patterns of logical organization, and opens the possibility of rendering and reordering new patterns along with the suppressed unconscious drives and obsessions.


Doha Talkies said...

wow.. Your narration and use of words was amazing.. You have a different style of putting down words. Still surrealist movies are coming these days?

Unknown said...

Good one. Reminds me of the time when I saw an Exhibition by Salvador Dali, you really need much broader horizon and compassion to understand surrealism

Arun Kumar said...

@Doha Talkies, Thanks for the appreciation. Movie-makers like David Lynch, Cronenberg, Terry Gillian and many more directors are still using surrealism in a excellent way.

@Harshal Bhave, Thanks for the comment. Indeed, one need a broad mind to comprehend surrealism.

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Cronenberg is a champion of surrealism. I've loved all his films. Needles, Lynch is another director to look out for. Great post!

Arun Kumar said...

Haricharan, Thanks for the comment.