The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Brief Intro

Luis Buñuel’s 1972 surrealist masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, hilariously dissects the superficiality and absurdity of upper-middle-class conventions. Through a series of bizarre and dreamlike dinner parties that never quite happen, Buñuel uses satire to critique societal norms and hypocrisy.

Literary Devices Used in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie


Movie SceneDevice Example
The guests repeatedly fail to have their dinnerSituational irony: A dinner party that never happens.
The ambassador’s casual discussion of terrorismVerbal irony: Discussing terrorism in a nonchalant, casual manner.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The military dinner sceneSatirical portrayal of military pomp and absurdity.
The bourgeoisie’s reaction to the police raidSatire of the privileged class’s detachment from reality.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring dream sequencesSurreal elements: Blurring the lines between dreams and reality.
The endless walking down a country roadSurreal imagery emphasizing the futility and absurdity of the journey.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The bishop’s gardening sceneSymbolism: The bishop’s role reflects the merging of the sacred and the profane.
The recurring motif of the never-served dinnerSymbolism: The unattainable nature of bourgeois satisfaction.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The characters’ polite conversation about drugsParadox: Politeness juxtaposed with the illegal and taboo.
The ambassador’s moral lecture followed by corruptionParadox: Moral high ground undermined by personal actions.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The entire film’s plot structureAllegory for the cyclical nature of bourgeois life and hypocrisy.
The ghost of the colonel’s murder victimAllegory for repressed guilt and unresolved conflicts.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The dinner scenes versus the dream sequencesJuxtaposition of reality and fantasy to highlight absurdity.
The bourgeois dining rituals versus the underclass strugglesJuxtaposition to critique social inequality.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The interrupted dinner partiesMetaphor for the disruption of social order.
The country road the guests endlessly walkMetaphor for the aimlessness and futility of their existence.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The exaggerated formalities of the bourgeoisHyperbole to emphasize their superficiality and pretentiousness.
The absurdity of the dream sequencesHyperbole to amplify the surreal and nonsensical nature of their fears.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring failed dinner partiesMotif representing the central theme of societal absurdity.
The walking on the country roadMotif symbolizing the endless and meaningless journey of the bourgeois.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Main Characters

The Ambassador (Rafael Acosta)

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyHis polished demeanor contrasts with his involvement in illicit activities.
SymbolismRepresents the corruption and moral ambiguity within the political elite.

M. Thevenot

Literary DeviceExplanation
SatireEmbodies the absurdity and hypocrisy of bourgeois values.
AllegoryHis actions serve as a critique of societal norms and conventions.

Mme. Thevenot

Literary DeviceExplanation
JuxtapositionHer seemingly refined nature contrasts with her immoral actions.
ParadoxPolite yet involved in scandalous behavior, highlighting societal hypocrisy.

M. Sénéchal

Literary DeviceExplanation
MetaphorHis futile attempts to host a dinner symbolize the unattainable nature of social perfection.
HyperboleHis exaggerated mannerisms emphasize the ridiculousness of the bourgeois lifestyle.

Mme. Sénéchal

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyHer domestic role contrasts with her manipulative and cunning personality.
AllegoryRepresents the dual nature of public versus private personas.

Character Dynamics

Literary DeviceExplanation
JuxtapositionRelationships between characters, such as the bourgeois friends versus the servants, highlight social divides.
SymbolismInteractions often symbolize broader societal critiques, such as the casual discussion of immoral activities reflecting normalized corruption.

Thematic Analysis

Absurdity of Social Norms

Literary DeviceExplanation
SatireThe absurd rituals and failures highlight the futility of social conventions.
IronyThe endless interruptions of the dinner symbolize the constant disruption of social order.


Literary DeviceExplanation
ParadoxCharacters’ actions often contradict their words, showcasing their hypocrisy.
AllegoryThe plot itself serves as an allegory for the inherent hypocrisy in bourgeois life.


Literary DeviceExplanation
MetaphorThe repeated failed attempts to have dinner represent the futility of their pursuits.
MotifThe endless walking on the country road underscores the theme of futility.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SurrealismDream sequencesVisual effects and transitions create a dreamlike quality, enhancing surreal elements.
SymbolismCinematographySymbolic imagery, such as the country road, is emphasized through framing and focus.
IronySound designJuxtaposition of cheerful music with grim or absurd scenes heightens the irony.
SatireCostuming and propsExaggerated costumes and props underscore the satirical elements.
ParadoxEditingSharp cuts between contrasting scenes highlight paradoxical elements.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene: The Interrupted Dinner Party

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This scene exemplifies the film’s use of irony and satire. The dinner, meant to be a sophisticated social event, is repeatedly interrupted by bizarre and surreal events. The polished manners of the guests contrast sharply with the absurdity of the interruptions, highlighting the underlying absurdity of their social rituals.

Scene: The Country Road Walk

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In this scene, the recurring motif of the guests walking down a country road symbolizes their aimless and futile pursuit of social ideals. The endless journey with no clear destination serves as a metaphor for their meaningless existence.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What literary device is primarily used in the recurring failed dinner scenes?
  2. Which character is an allegory for the dual nature of public versus private personas?
    • A) Mme. Sénéchal
    • B) M. Thevenot
    • C) The Ambassador
    • D) M. Sénéchal
  3. What does the endless walking on the country road symbolize?
    • A) Freedom
    • B) Futility
    • C) Success
    • D) Danger