The Wilhelm Salber Society makes available here three materials on morphological film psychology. They provide an insight into the development of Wilhelm Salber's film psychology and at the same time an approach to one of the most famous works in film history.

See: Un Chien Andalou (F 1929) by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali

The filmmaker Luis Bunuel (1900 to 1983) and the painter Salvador Dali (1904 to 1989) met in 1920 during their student days. In 1928, they met again in the home town of Dali Figueres and developed the idea of producing a film together. Using the technique of "automatic writing" they set about producing a screenplay. The title was chosen intentionally without reference to the film. The shooting took about fourteen days. Bunuel edited the film in Paris and showed it to Louis Aragon and Man Ray, among others. The two artists were thrilled. The public premiere took place in 1929. The film which can be streamed here lasts about 16 minutes. To view the film in full screen mode, click on the middle icon in the bottom right corner.

Read: Extract from a notebook by Wilhelm Salber

Since the middle of the 1950s Wilhelm Salber made notes on films he had seen. The surviving notebooks are now being evaluated and show how decisively the design forms of the film supported Salber in developing a morphological psychology. Salber wrote the note printed here on 16 May 1957 after a second viewing of "Un Chien Andalou". It makes it clear that he saw in the work of Bunuel a kind of touchstone and model for film psychology. Actually, what the film sets in motion in the experience of the audience is unspeakable. And yet a psychology of film should be able to capture and classify at least some of its features:

What you can only guess at when you see it once, when you see it again it becomes clear: an excellently cinematically "painted" and a gripping and exciting film. Without showing possible mental events in the "photographable" objective world, the psychologically experiencable world is worked out through filmed images in essential features.

Filmed meanings, moods in the rhythm of the mental process in nuce - and this in the "borderline situation" in which one is confronted with one's own experience both "alien" (as something uncanny, not ultimately comprehensible) and "carried away" (as art whose characteristics are of a mental nature). An illustration of experience in general, a symbol of spiritual structure, from which one feels both exposed and included in a second sense: exposed because the spiritual does not show itself here in the "cliché" of objective reality - which can be easily photographed - (naturalistically); included because one emotionally participates in the transformation.

A "morphological" film that constantly "educates" and "reeducates". And it becomes clear that the surrealistic montage (as in some of Dali's paintings) does not take up random relationships, but "inner" attitudes. Everything was related to each other. The film reproduced "gestures" of the soul "in itself".

A film that is both astounding in its puzzling and "knowing" nature.

In detail: the sharpening of the razor at the beginning: window cross - belt on which the knife is sharpened. A similarly illuminated situation as in "Ecstasy", where Hedi Lamarr smokes a cigarette in the evening. That alone seemed both realistic and filmed. Then you saw the man, he was smoking. Balcony - moon - cut through the woman's eye. Subtitle: 8 years later. [here, of course, the psychoanalytical situation of defloration imposes itself upon us]

Then after the intertitle: the strangely dressed man cycling through empty streets with aprons and boxes (double exposures, fade in and fade out). The (excellently selected, chubby, chubby, swaying) woman in the room. [see Balacz]. The scene full of sexual excitement in which the man touches the woman's breast; first she defends herself, then she lets it happen: then cross-fades over the woman's upper body, which is glued together and unclothed, and which is touched in rhythmic alternation with the man's "clothed" - "unclothed" face: = once greedy and horny, then blind, a strip of blood and saliva runs out of his mouth. Multiple transitions - I have never seen anything so outstanding. - The man, who approaches the woman, who pulls the piano with the Jesuit and the dead donkeys towards her - the hand from which ants come out, which freezes. [Before that there was still the transition from the ants in hand to the armpit hair of a man in a bathing costume - to a sea urchin - to a circle (mask) in which a woman moved a cut off hand with a stick - the people who formed the circle around her sounded a tune to the sea urchin].

Then the man with an apron (Malaparte - Cupid?), from whom another man takes off his clothes and puts him against the wall. The one who shoots the other with pistols, into which books, schoolbooks transform, how another collapsed (soft focus) - all of this without a gap in the filmic aspect - great...

Then a butterfly with a skull drawing - the head of the man looking at the woman and the man without a shirt, who then wears the armpit hair of the woman like a beard. She sticks out her tongue, runs to someone who is waiting for her on the beach (clock). ….

The ambivalence of the soul of excitement and death came out excellently in all this. But it is likely to rape the film, if one wants to reduce the events to a clear, rational denominator that explains them completely. For many of the traits that Romanticism pointed out, there are still no logifications at all today - if they are even possible.

The film is without doubt a starting point and also an end point for any film psychology: what film is psychologically and how it works. ... Its justification (?) must be based on the Bunuel film's references to structure, image meaning, image tension and logic, and it must also be able to explain the whole from its conceptual world.

Listen: Extract from a lecture by Wilhelm Salber on film psychology

Approximately 45 years after the note printed above, Wilhelm Salber gave a lecture on the psychology of film at the "Kölner Akademie für Markt- und Medienpsychologie" (KAMM) in Cologne, directed by Armin Schulte. In this context he also showed "Un Chien Andalou". In about eight minutes he then explained what Louis Bunuel's film can say to film psychology.

Salber's freely spoken lecture was typical for him. A professorial manner was not in his line. In four concise thoughts he applied key points of his psychology to the work just seen by the audience. The extraordinary density of his argumentation is both impressive and intimidating. One has to occupy oneself with this lecture for a little longer in order to appropriate its entire content. Here is a brief sketch of the film psychological terms Salber uses:

First of all, Salber attaches importance to the fact that the film is set in a development "Original tempo of experience" is involved. A dramatic process takes place in the here and now. Secondly, Salber makes it clear that "Un Chien Andalou" - like other films - is part of a Metamorphosis-like process is involved. We feel in a disturbing way that we can hardly grasp these sequences of images. With a third thought Salber emphasizes that Film experience a work is. It forms a unity of experience with the image and sound track. It is captivated by it on one side. At the same time, however, numerous psychological activities - expectations, additions, fears, memories and associations - are unleashed. It is also characteristic of the film that it decisively changes the compromise character of reality that we agree on in everyday life. What we would never do or accept in everyday life, in the film it is carried out in actions. The fourth thought that Salber illustrates in the film by Bunuel circles around a Paradox one: With him it was about the idea that the "firm" certainties we rely on are perhaps only accidental constructions. Human reality could also be arranged quite differently. An Andalusian dog" gives us a hint of this.

The extract from the two-hour lecture can be listened to here. The complete lecture can be found in the archive provided by Armin Schulte and accessible to WSG members under the titles Salber - Filmpsychologie 1 and Salber - Filmpsychologie 2. Please click on the arrow symbol on the left to start the lecture.