“I have waited for a long time. What joy to have our children murdered!”
‘L’Age D’or’, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1930, is a surrealist comedy that, through a sequence of strange and impenetrable vignettes, unpacks the tensions between sex and Catholicism. It’s the film that Buñuel directed after ‘Un Chien Andalou’ the year before, and to start with he had the support of surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Dali left the project before Buñuel began filming, so in many ways this is considered to be his first film, and the film that sets into motion a raft of themes and imagery that the director returns to throughout his many years making movies. It’s full of daring and suggestive sexual imagery, Freudian references that parallel humans and animals, and religious iconography in incongruous locations. So priests and bishops are shown in unusual places and the film climaxes with the aftermath of an orgy which shows a Christ-like figure emerging from the party. Like Buñuel’s later films it is darkly comic and the almost silent nature of the film (it does have a synched sound-track but also has intertitles) focuses the viewer’s attention on the juxtaposed imagery and keeps the philosophising separate from the playful surrealism. It’s a difficult film to become immersed in – the preoccupations, whilst for the most part still felt today, are expressed differently. The surrealism and Buñuel’s own particular approach to story making, create a barrier (perhaps intentionally) preventing you from fully engaging in what’s on screen. What is fascinating is getting an insight into the beginnings of a filmmaker’s style and thematic obsessions that says a great deal about films such as ‘Los Olvidados’, ‘The Milky Way’, ‘Tristana’ and ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’
Would I recommend it? Yes, as a way of completing a journey around Buñuel’s world. Watch in a double-bill with ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’, really the conclusion of the directors obsession with upper middle-class people never managing to find satisfaction.