Maya Deren  



Early, interesting, experimental film-maker of short silent films that make use of heavy psychological symbolism to explore themes of identity and society. Although surrealism is used, dream-logic, psychology and symbolism are emphasized over the typical randomness of the movement and this may be why she refused to be labeled a surrealist. A frequently used theme is characters that magically shift between spaces and locations. After some abstract, pioneering, silent, avant-garde films, she turned increasingly to dance as the expressive medium in artistic short films, all exploring psychological, sociological, ritualistic or cultural themes. Her more notable, surreal shorts follow. Died in 1961.

Recommended

Meshes of the Afternoon  
Co-directed by Deren. A short psychological study of a woman's fears and desires as related to herself and her lover. Dream-logic ties together a romantic flower, a key, and a kiss, all turning at times into a murderous knife, taunted by a person with a mirror for a face. Feelings of alienation, self-damaging fears, split personalities and desires are evoked from this masterpiece of surrealism.

Of Some Interest

At Land  
Social rituals, identity and gender roles are explored. A woman emerges from the sea, climbs a dead tree onto a social dinner table with indifferent people, watches a chess game and follows a beaten pawn back to the beach, grapples with harsh rocks, is tempted in the forest by a man and a home, then finds her own way across a beach, collecting stones, interacting with other sociable women, but always alienated and on her own. A heavily symbolic, perhaps feminist dream.

Ritual in Transfigured Time  
A woman is immersed in the ritual of unwinding wool until she disappears. Another woman enters a party where greetings and social body gestures slowly become more and more fluid until it becomes a dance, then they are transported to an outside setting where a man courts her in a dance but her fear of abandoning herself to ritual grows and she runs away. Interesting choreography.

Worthless

Witch's Cradle  
An unfinished work that uses camera tricks and occult symbols to add magical qualities to various objects at the Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery. Strings and alphabet cubes move by themselves, drawings draw themselves on limbs, surreal art is explored with harsh lighting, experiments with camera and body movements, etc. Barely a half-baked thought.




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