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Essay about Surrealism and Film

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Surrealism is a movement that built off of the burgeoning look into art, psychology, and the workings of the mind. Popularly associated with the works of Salvador Dali, Surrealist art takes imagery and ideology and creates correlation where there is none, creating new forms of art. In this essay I will look to explore the inception of the surrealist movement, including the Surrealist Manifesto, to stress the importance of these artists and their work in the 20th century and beyond. I also will look to films from our European Cinema course to express how films incorporate the influence of surrealism both intentionally and unintentionally.
To begin, we will look at the ideals and influences that led to the formation of surrealist ideals, starting with something that sparked multiple artistic movements, the First World War. Many French artists were displaced during the war, and embraced ideals that spoke to their dissatisfaction with the results of rationalism, in their eyes a cause of the war itself (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-surrealism.htm). These artists called themselves “Dadaists” and believed in the concept of “Anti-art”, a rejection of previous values tied to rational or bourgeoisie ideals. Upon their return to Paris after the war these artists brought the idea of anti-art and began expressing their ideas via performances, written work, and various other forms that looked to the absurd or ridiculous to ridicule the formal presentation of art and realism. These protests however, were driven more by social and aesthetic commentary than the Surrealists, who focused more on the effects of art of the mind, both in creation and viewing. The important spark occurred in 1924, when Andre Breton published the “Surrealist Manifes...


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...ut. In the film, the surreal images and events that occur seem outside the bounds of reality as we know it, and some are explained away as being part of a dream. In particular, the appearance of ghosts in both the inspector’s and Hubert’s (the soldier in the café) stories speak to a sense of unreality and metaphor. In Hubert’s case, the appearance of his mother and “real” father are the explanation for his acts of revenge. Given that Hubert is a soldier, we tie his identity to that of the military and its operation. His explanation that revenge was necessary on his step-father because of the tales told by ghosts is likely social commentary on the operations of the military as a whole. Metaphorically, we can look to this in much the way we can much of the movie, as the concept of reality is warped and depends on who is providing the interpretation of the situation.



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