The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, a social satirical and surrealist film, questions the continuation of high class traditions and conventional narrative structure. It’s evident that the director, Luis Bunuel, saw the continuation of these two traditions to be silly and needed to be questioned, examined, and interrupted. The director tries to understand why these two traditions continue to influence social order and the structure of narratives.
One reason why society is easily influenced by social norms is due to the fact that we are social creatures who want to be accepted and included. For example, cultures develop among groups of people as a means of creating social belonging. However, we also show signs of social belonging to a certain group by ways of communication, attire, and behavior. For example, those part of high class society show their upper class-ness through their behavior (using proper manners and etiquette), how they dress (through their appearance), and how they communicate (brag about what they own). These types of people want to be seen, they want to show their upper class-ness in order to distinguish themselves from others and exclude those who are not a part of their social stature. For example, there are even special seats at the Globe theater dedicated to this particular reason- to be seen and show signs of wealth. Furthermore, the Globe seating reflects class status, the wealthy are on the top (closer to heaven) while the poor are on the bottom (closer to hell) and those of high stature would even throw their bodily waste onto those below (the poor). These separate sections only reinforce class divisions and keep those with money away from those without. Our guide even mentioned that some of those less fortunate would only see the attire of the upper class while at the theater because the rich donated their clothes to be made into lavish costumes. This leads me to believe that upper and lower classes do not mix and only hang out with those of the same social class.
I have noticed the continuation of this tradition in London while conversing with my English friend. He spoke about how he only went to the hottest nightclubs because he didn’t want to hang around “peasants” and how when commoners got drunk they acted like “animals.” This reminds me of the scene in the film which displays how rich people sip on a martini while commoners gulp it down quickly. This is just one example of how the upper class distinguishes themselves from others, and maintains traditional standards.
Not only does Bunuel question the continuation of class division, he also questions the structure of narratives. For example, most stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but not The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Similarly, Cantina did not conform to traditional narrative structure, but consisted of a series of visually stimulating and entertaining scenes which delighted the audience. However despite the lack of a continuous plot in the film and the show, both draw the viewer into the story and provide a seductive spectacle. Both the film and the show didn't have typical linear narratives and both didn't spell out the main message for the audience. As a result, the message has to be interpreted by the individual and makes the viewer think for themselves. Of course both the movie and the show can be interpreted in different ways depending on the individuals attitudes, beliefs, and values. Moreover, since both the film and the show were watched in a communal setting, one needs to take this environment into consideration since the crowd influences an individuals experience. Whether it's a film, a show, or a Shakespearean play, all mediums impact the mind and influence an individuals thought process. When all's said and done, the same way Shakespeare continues to direct from the dead, the film and the show also directs us to think about certain topics and question certain topics like class division or narrative structure in relation to the film or gender sexuality in the case of Cantina.
One way a director structures narrative is through the use of motifs, or repeated images or scenes to reinforce a major theme. In this film, a scene of all six characters walking down an endless road with no apparent destination point leads the viewer to interpret the lack of progress and change and how society keeps walking down this path for no apparent reason other than to subscribe to cultural standards of classist behavior. Similarly, other film directors or story tellers (but not Bunuel) are also walking down the same path by conforming to traditional narrative structure. However, Bunuel takes a stand and creates a story that is discombobulated, and tries to undermine the stability of narrative tradition. Another film director who plays around with narrative structure is Quentin Tarrentino, since many of his scenes are not in sequential order but make sense after the film ends.
The goal of this film is to question social structures that tell us what to do, how to act, or how to tell a story or make a film. The film itself mocks many traditional cultural institutions, like the police force or the church, and tries to persuade the audience to view them as bizarre and absurd. In conclusion, the film is a parody of institutional traditions and an act of resistance against class divisions as well as the rules of modern cinema.