Directed by Marry Harron, Daliland is the real-life story of the world-renowned painter Salvador Dali. The film focuses on the tumultuous relationship he had with his wife, Gala Dali, and how his actions and his lifestyle had an impact on it. The artist was renowned for surrealism in his paintings, and his real-life too was no less than a fantasy, and it did feel strange to know that a lot of things depicted in the film happened in real life. The film is told from the perspective of an art curator named James, who is as much an outsider to the world of Dali as any person leading a normal life would be. So, let’s find out what kind of impact Dali had on the young art curator and what exactly happened between him and his wife.
How Does James Become Dali’s Assistant?
Salvador Dali’s most precious possession was his youth, and he was in denial about it though his old age was beating down that illusion. An art gallery named Dufresne used to represent the great man, and they had reached a point where they were sick and tired of dealing with him. Salvador Dali was not delivering as much as Christoff, the head art curator at Dufresne, expected him to. There was a huge exhibition coming up, and Christoff needed more paintings from Dali, but the man was way too distracted. James Linton had joined the art gallery around that time, and he was asked by Christoff to deliver a package to Dali’s home. James was starstruck, as he had never met the legend in person. Maybe he had never seen that kind of extravagant life before, but he knew that he belonged there. He never felt like an outsider, and he just craved to be a part of the clan. Fortunately, Gala Dali, Salvador’s wife, called him for dinner the next day, and James had no clue why she was being so hospitable to him. What he didn’t know was that Gala had a special affinity for young and beautiful boys, and she didn’t mind having an affair now and then. She was often referred to as the “surrealist female fatale,” and people knew that she was the driving force behind the painter’s great work. Dali offered James to be his assistant until the exhibition, and James knew that he wouldn’t get a better chance to learn about art in life.
Christoff didn’t want James to be with Dali, but James was not going to let go of this opportunity. He convinced Christoff and went to Dali’s place to help him in whatever manner he could. Dali liked James probably because he knew that the art curator was a fan of his work, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say here that somewhere James worshiped the image he had in mind of Dali. James had given Dali a book that had all the signatures that the man had used up until then. Dali’s signature kept changing, and James tried to decipher the reason behind it because it was a very unusual thing in itself. Gala tried making advances on the young boy, but he made it very clear that he wasn’t the least bit interested in her. His motive to join Dali as his assistant was very clear: he wanted to understand art better and see through his own eyes how the genius saw the world.
Dali knew how to throw parties, and it had probably become a way for him to find an escape from his life. For somebody like James, it was a whole new world, and he hadn’t seen anything like this ever in his life. James had an affair with a girl named Ginesta, but he probably started developing feelings for her when he realized that it was just a casual fling for her. James thought this amusing and exciting ride was never going to end, but things changed when Christoff decided to fire him as he thought that James was taking everything for granted and had somehow gotten distracted by the opulence he had witnessed while he was assisting Dali. Luckily, James had impressed Dali and his manager, Captain Moore, so much that they kept him on board after he lost his job.
‘Daliland’ Ending Explained: What Happened Between Salvador Dali And Gala?
Dali and Gala had no one else to blame for the complications they were facing in their own relationship. They had an open marriage of sorts, but it was quite evident from Dali’s actions that he was getting affected by it. Gala was having an extramarital relationship with Jeff Fenholt, who, though a musician, was best known for the character he played in the Broadway adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar. Dali had issues with it, but he knew that he couldn’t say anything to Gala. He didn’t like what his relationship had become, but he knew that he was also doing the same thing. Had he not lost interest in his wife and not started indulging with other females, they would have never been in that state.
Dali was miserable, and he had a lot of regrets in life. He often remembered that day when he had seen Gala for the very first time. They had started seeing each other in 1929 when Gala was still married to Paul Elouard. Though both Gala and Dali lived in the same room in the Saint Regis hotel, they had drifted very far from each other. Gala always felt that she was not getting the credit she deserved. She told James once how she used to go from door to door, trying to sell Dali’s paintings. But after Dali became a renowned personality nobody remembered her contribution and that hurt her way too much. She felt like a nobody, though she was the one who had helped Dali climb the ladder of success. It wouldn’t be wrong if we called Gala a kingmaker, as she was the first to recognize the talent of those magical hands of Salvador Dali. She was trying to do pretty much the same thing now with Jeff. She wanted the world to recognize his potential, and that is why she spent a lot of time with him, so that she made sure that he was going in the right direction. She also sold a portrait that Dali had made of her so that she could help Jeff in his endeavors and pay for all the costs that went into music production and distribution.
Things became worse, and there came a point where both Dali and Gala couldn’t stand each other. Gala passed away on June 10th, 1982, and after that, Dali was never the same again. No matter how complicated their relationship might have become, Gala was the only woman who could inspire Dali. Dali was just like a kid who did everything that he could to get the attention of his wife, but not once did he tell her that she was all he wanted. He craved her attention, but he still didn’t stop indulging with other females. We don’t know who was right and who was wrong here, but we can surely say that Dali’s paintings, as well as his life, were surreal, and sometimes you couldn’t understand what was fact and what wasn’t. Dali’s life was so outlandish and eccentric in its own way that sometimes it felt like it was all a dream and that he would open his eyes at any moment and the illusion would cease to exist.
Dali told James once that the younger generation always thought that to get inspired, one must be happy and peaceful, but the reality was that the kind of inspiration and motivation that negative emotions like anger and hatred could provide, nothing else could. It was quite strange for young James to associate the inspiration of an artist with something so negative. At the end of Daliland, we saw that James had opened an art gallery of his own and was content with the life he had. He remembered his days when he used to work for Dali, and that experience had shaped his life in ways that nobody could imagine. No doubt, the life of an artist seems aspirational from the outside, but only they understand what they go through on a daily basis. Probably Salvador Dali was in denial all his life but to be in a sane mind after the kind of baggage he carried felt like a victory in itself.