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Maya Deren Essay

1171 words - 5 pages

Maya Deren was one of the most important American experimental filmmakers and entrepreneurial promoters of the avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s. Deren is a multi-genre artist who is primarily known as a filmmaker but who also worked in dance, poetry, and film theory, paid special attention to the materials involved in film and filmmaking. Her films include multiple images of fabric and textiles, and her writings consistently note the physical components involved in filmmaking, the cameras instrument, the cinematic equipment, and the bodies of the actors.

For my final essay, I chose Meshes of the Afternoon. Aside from being Maya Deren’s most successful film. A mesh of the Afternoon is a short experimental film directed by wife and husband team, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. The film's narrative is circular, and repeats a number of psychologically symbolic images, including a flower on along driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a mysterious Grim Reaper-like cloaked figure with a mirror for a face, a phone off the hook and an ocean.

The reason why this film is so strong is because this is about herself. Maya Deren came up with her ideas from personal experience, feelings and her emotions. "The film image whose intangible reality consists of lights and shadows beamed through the air and caught on the surface of a silver screen comes to us as the reflection of another world"(Deren 2005e). This statement conveys film as not only magical and otherworldly but material: even though it possesses an “intangible reality," it is the product of objects moving in space. She did this through her dream sequences, multiple selves, and the artistic use of time and space.

Deren exploits this "contrast" between the "man-made" and the "real," or "natural," in Meshes, creating a productive confusion between the two states. For example, a single fake flower reoccurs throughout the entire film, often appearing outside surrounded by real plants and flowers. Similarly, we often see multiple "Mayas" simultaneously, asking questions about authenticity and falsehood. Deren's use of real/false natural imagery is important is that it foregrounds the relationship between fabric and the body. There is a disconnect between what the audience recognizes as "real" experience and the representation of reality shown in the film. This disconnect is based in sensory knowledge. For example, the plastic flower cannot actually give scent. Speaking about the performativity of objects, Alice Rayner refers to the "sensory dimension that exceeds [the object's] visibility" (Rayner, 2006: 97).

The central figure in Meshes of the Afternoon, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, tell throughout the film. "Instead of trying to invent a plot that moves, use the movement of wind, or water, children, people, elevators, balls, etc., as a...

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