BSA206: Surrealist Film

The Surrealist movement began in the 1920s and it has been noted since then that there have been many similarities between the movement and filmmaking. [1]

The objective and technical processes of filmmaking shared affinities with the surrealist project of disassembling reality into a multiplicity of images, and then reassembling those images to achieve a marvelous and uncanny “dream world” that redoubled reality and captured the consciousness of mass audiences [1].

Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (2010) is full of surrealist elements, after all, the main part of the story is set in Alice’s dream and surrealism in film often focuses around dream sequences.
Catriona McAra explores the idea of Lewis Carroll, the writer of Alice In Wonderland, inspiring a lot of surrealist art and writings of the time saying,

“The surrealist movement claimed the Alice books’  writer Lewis Carroll (Charles Ludwig Dodgson, 1832-98) as an important precursor. Traces of his influence can be found in a stream of surrealist works, and, further, surrealism can be seen to have co-opted the curiosity of his heroine Alice as an investigatory trope, in keeping with its research-based practice.” [2]

The difference though between Alice In Wonderland (2010) and traditional surrealist films is the same as many other modern films with surrealist elements; it has a narrative.

The two images below, the first from Spellbound (1945) and the second from Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice In Wonderland, illustrate the similarities in the sets between a Surrealist film and a modern film with Surrealist elements.

Spellbound (1945) [3]
Alice in Wonderland (2010) [4]
Below are two images, one from the 1932 Surrealist film Blood of a Poet and the other from Alice In Wonderland (2010), that provide a strong example of the influence of Surrealism on contemporary film. The  hypnotic element of the Cheshire Cat and the way it appears and disappears piece by piece seems to have been influenced by this scene from Blood of a Poet. In this scene, the man slowly appears, piece by piece, as the hypnotic spiral spins.

Blood of a Poet (1932) Source: 5
The Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland (2010) Source: 6





How to make a surrealist film:,,2026690,00.html

Surrealist Cinema:


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