Calligraphy and Islamic Culture by Annemarie Schimmel

By Annemarie Schimmel

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The principal male protagonist has several roles: cyclist (not overly skilful), seducer (not entirely successful) and double (feared then killed) – and possibly the man buried in the sand in the final freeze frame. He appears to have magical powers (he can turn breasts into buttocks, books into guns). His behaviour is erratic: as a cyclist he hovers between child and adult, male and female; his actions are docile (he lies passively on the bed) and desperate (he drags an impossible load); his sexual identity is unfixed when he exchanges body parts with Mareuil; the limits of his body are dissolved when ants swarm out of a hole in his hand, his mouth is erased, and his face is invaded by female body hair.

Finally, as will be argued later in this chapter, the close-up can be linked to a subjective point of view, suggesting the alternative space of the dream(like). A cinema of attractions Buñuel recognized in Fritz Lang’s Der Müde Tod / Destiny (1921) and Metropolis (1927) a ‘disconcerting dualism’ between the storytelling element and a ‘pure lyrical’, non-narrative dimension (Buñuel 2000: 99). A similar dualism is operative in Un chien andalou, where visual shocks, non-sequiturs and poetic associations do more than destabilize the conventional storytelling codes.

The emotive power of close-up shots such as the slashed eye, the severed hand, the hand with ants, armpit hair, depends both on the focus on the violated part-body, and on the compositional context – rhythmical or disruptive – within which the shots are inscribed. The close-up is often linked to alternating montage which gives it a strong emotive charge, as in the opening sequence, where the moon / cloud shots alternate with the eye / razor shots. 9 Alternating montage reproduces the mechanisms of desire: for example, the shots of the couple at the window (off-screen look) alternate with the street scene and accident in a compulsive accelerated rhythm that appears to awaken the male protagonist’s sexual desire.

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