Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 535
The day will soon come when we realise that, in spite of the wear and tear of life that bites like acid into our flesh, the very cornerstone of that violent liberation which reaches out for a better life in the heart of the technological age that corrupts our cities is
Buñuel has formulated a theory of revolution and love which goes to the very core of human nature; that most tragic of all debates, galvanised by well-meaning cruelty, finds its ultimate expression in that unique instant when a distant yet wholly present voice, so slowly yet so urgently, yells through compressed lips so loudly that it can scarcely be heard:
LOVE … LOVE … Love … Love.
… All those who are not yet alarmed by what the censorship allows them to read in the newspapers must go and see L'Age d'or. It complements the present stock-exchange crisis perfectly, and its impact is all the more direct precisely because it is surrealist … The foundations are laid, conventions become dogma, policemen push people around just as they do in everyday life. And, just as in everyday life, accidents occur in bourgeois society while that society pays no attention whatsoever. But such accidents (and it must be noted that in Buñuel's film they remain uncorrupted by plausibility) further debilitate an already-rotting society that tries to prolong its existence artificially by the use of priests and policemen. The final pessimism born within that society as its optimism begins to wane becomes a powerful virus that hastens the process of disintegration. That pessimism takes on the value of negation and is immediately translated into anticlericalism; it thus becomes revolutionary, because the fight against religion is also the fight against the world as it is.
But it is Love which brings about the transition from pessimism to action; Love, denounced in the bourgeois demonology as the root of all evil. For Love demands the sacrifice of every other value: status, family and honour. And the failure of Love within the social framework leads to Revolt. This process can be seen in the life and works of the Marquis de Sade, who lived in the golden age of absolute monarchy … so that it is no coincidence if Buñuel's sacrilegious film contains echoes of the blasphemies which the Divine Marquis hurled through the bars of his jail.
It still remains to be demonstrated that the final outcome of this pessimism will in fact be the struggle and the victory of the proletariat, which will mean the abolition of a society made up of different classes.
In this age of so-called prosperity, the social function of L'Age d'or must be to urge the oppressed to satisfy their hunger for destruction and perhaps even to cater for the masochism of the oppressor.
In spite of all the threats to suppress this film, we believe that it will win out in the end and open new horizons in a sky which can never match in beauty that sky it showed us in a mirror. (pp. 327-28)
André Breton, "Manifesto on 'L'Age d'or'," in his What Is Surrealism?: Selected Writings, edited by Franklin Rosemont (copyright © 1978 by Franklin Rosemont), Monad Press, 1978, pp. 327-28.
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