Though the film defies explanation, and the directors Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali repeatedly refused to explain the symbols of the film, one way to read An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou) is as a journey through the stages of psycho-sexual development according to Sigmund Freud. These stages are:
- Oral stage (from birth to eighteen months): the child is preoccupied by nursing, and identifies nursing with his or her libidinal energy. Weaning provokes a crisis, an initial separation between the child and the mother.
- Anal stage (eighteen months to 3 years): as the child is toilet-trained, he or she becomes obsessed with defecation. The child takes pleasure in defecation, which is countered by the rules of society concerning the control of bodily functions.
- Phallic stage (3 to 4 years): the child becomes interested in his or her genitals. The boy child wishes to possess his mother sexually, and to kill his father (his rival), but does not do so out of fear of castration at the hands of his father; instead he learns to identify with his father. This is the Oedipus Complex. The girl child desires her father and blames the mother for her lack of penis, but she eventually identifies with her mother, in order to vicariously possess her father through her mother. This is the Electra Complex.
- Latency Stage: the conflict of the Oedipal and Electra Complexes resolved, the child goes into an asexual period that is characterized by sexual repression.
- Genital Stage: the child, now fully grown and socialized, strives to develop a healthy sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex. If previous states are unresolved, this will be problematic.
For more on Freud’s stages, and the definitions of such terms as libido, erogenous zone, id, ego, and superego, please consult the Victorian Web (from which I have borrowed for my explanation above):
Note that feminists and gay critics have problems with Freud’s model of psycho-sexual development. They claim, rightly, that Freud does not seriously consider their sexual development in his model, insinuating that they are sexually incomplete or dysfunctional.