Surrealalizing Surrealism

When watching a surrealist work the most passing of thoughts is often more important than your final impressions. Surrealism is about an immediate gut punch experience, to try and make since of the piece is a futile mission because while there is depth there is almost certainly no correct reading. David Lynch has not revealed his meaning because the power of the film would be lost. So what I am going to right about is not what the films mean I will be writing about what the viewing experience stirred up.

Un Chien Andalou or An Andalusian Dog is a beautiful blast of images in constant flux, it drifts through scene to scene with little care of the audience which is its strongest merit. The inception of this project grew from Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel sharing dreams they had so this film was drawn from such a personal well that when they made it it seemed to be crafted solely for them. Nothing is held back and every element is dripping with a personal touch. This means that while watching it you seem to be viewing a foreign dream creating an experience uniquely diving into someone else’s dream. It was oddly relaxing letting my mind be free to wander as someone else’s subconscious took control. The film attaches to you and flows through your brain virally and leaves as abruptly as it comes. There is a flow that leads to thought on thought none of which define the substance but each shed light onto it.

Eraserhead is a different beast because while it falls into a rabbit hole half way through there is a false push into narrative through the beginning into the dinner scene. This is the most curious thing about the film, how it prepare you for a typical, if a bit unconventional, story structure and then it slowly but deliberately transforms into nonlinear sequence of oddity. Lamb Chop Lady to milk sex we see no clear message and nor should we we are only needed to react, to briefly but firmly acknowledge the mere and simple existence of the piece itself. The strongest reaction I had was during the shift from linear to nonlinear when my mind still is processing the transition as linear, there was not exactly confusion but definitely a conflict as I tried to fit the film into what it had been so far. Each scene separates and branches off and because the film had me processing it one way. Ultimately the whole viewing experience was a sense of enjoyment filtered through a strong aura of conflict.

Surrealist art in some senses harnesses a potential that no other art does. It removes itself from a cannon that constricts people viewing experience to one that can be forced into a referential mindset. Surrealism is reactionary, it is fluid, it is detached, it is the closest art can be to free without turning into a pointless journey. I think Bill summed it up when he said, “People think pipes grow in their homes! Well they sure as hell don’t. Look at my knees! Look at my knees!”


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