Surrealism and Cinema

Surrealism and Cinema

Surrealism and Cinema

Surrealism and Cinema


Tracing the work of Luis Buñuel, Jacques Prévert, Nelly Kaplan, Walerian Borowcyzk, Jan vankmajer, Raul Ruiz and Alejandro Jodorowsky, this book charts the history of surrealist filmmaking in both Europe and Hollywood from the 1920s to the present day. At once a critical introduction and a provocative re-evaluation, Surrealism and Cinema is essential reading for anyone interested in surrealist ideas and art and the history of film.


The cinema is the operation of chance.

La Révolution Surréaliste no. 3

The conjunction 'surrealism and cinema' is a seductive one. It evokes an undefined relation, a meeting point between the opposites of light and dark, presence and absence, actuality and imagination which suggests the actualisation of the supreme point which André Breton identified as the aim of surrealism. So evocative is this concurrence that it already seems present in the human imagination long before either 'cinema' or 'surrealism' actually existed. At least, the surrealist experience of cinema already seems to be familiar to the German romantic poet Novalis, to judge from some of his aphorisms:

Dark memories hovering below the transparent screen of the present will
present images of reality in sharp silhouette, to create the pleasurable effect
of a double world.

The outer world becomes so transparent and the inner world so diverse
and full of meaning that one finds oneself in a state of nervous animation
between the two.

(Novalis, 1979: 25–6)

In these two statements, what drew the surrealists to the cinema is already suggested: it lies in its power to disclose what lies dormant within the collective consciousness, making manifest what is latent without destroying the mystery of its latency. In another aphorism we find Novalis writing that 'the viewer is the truly thoughtful man' (Novalis, 1979:26). This suggests a form of dialectic linking thought and sight to plays of light and dark which evokes a condition the surrealists believed the cinema was uniquely qualified to induce.

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