Close Up

5 - 18 May 2024: Close-Up on Maya Deren Programme 1


Programme 1

Meshes of the Afternoon
Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid, 1943, 14 min

“It was amid the turmoil of the Second World War that Deren collaborated with Czech cinematographer Alexander Hammid to make her surreal 14-minute debut, in which Deren herself appears as the enigmatic woman in the window. The two got married, and, while Hammid was working in Hollywood, he taught Deren the mechanics of filmmaking to help realise her vision. The result is a remarkable achievement that presents the nightmarish narrative of two lovers in a dreamlike and poetic psychodrama. An excellent self-promoter, Deren’s follow-up films were to be pioneering in the way they combined ethnography and choreography. The term “choreocinema” was coined by New York Times dance critic John Martin to describe the way Deren linked dance and film.” – GK

At Land
Maya Deren, 1944, 15 min

“Deren’s thematic preoccupation with the human body, its movement and the process of filmmaking, begins to take shape in her second film, which draws some of its power from jump-cuts and the juxtaposition of spaces. Shot by the sea in Amagansett, Long Island, it features Deren herself again, as a woman washed up on the shore. She climbs up a dead tree, then is suddenly crawling on a dinner table, unnoticed by the party guests. Deren cuts from the seashore to the dinner party and back again to the seashore. At Land is an inimitable study of social rituals and the human body’s place in nature.” – GK

A Study in Choreography for Camera
Maya Deren, 1945, 3 min

“Following her first two films, Deren fully realised her vision of the human body in motion and its relation to the medium of film with the editing patterns of A Study in Choreography for Camera. Dancer Talley Beatty moves freely from a living room to the forest to a museum space, with careful choreographed movements, while Deren’s camera complements his performance by overcoming the confines of space.” – GK

Ritual in Transfigured Time
Maya Deren, 1946, 15 min

“By her fourth film, Deren’s work on body movements was enveloped in the study of form as ritual. Again concentrating on social dynamics and the art of greeting, the camera in Ritual in Transfigured Time follows Rita Christiani entering a room where Deren unwinds wool from a loom. Christiani later enters a party and her movement becomes a fluid performance, at times transported by the dread of rejection or the contrasting freedom of expression in social circles.” – GK

Private Life of a Cat
Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid, 1946, 22 min

An intimate study of the life of a domestic cat, taking place over a period of months as she gives birth to a litter of kittens and cares for them as they grow - which foresaw the future of cat videos…

Meditation on Violence
Maya Deren, 1948, 15 min

“According to Stan Brakhage, Meditation on Violence is Deren’s most personal film. She doesn’t appear in it, but, as Brakhage notes: “She is the camera, she’s moving, she’s breathing in relation to this dancer.” The dancer is Chao-Li Chi, whom Deren films both indoors and outdoors, and then reverses his movements in the editing. The resulting form has no form: it’s a shape that’s in motion and in constant change – according to Deren, the “ultimate form”. It continues the interplay between the filmmaker and raw movement. The movement in Meditation on Violence is balanced, seen both forwards and backwards.” – GK

Showing as part of our Close-Up on Maya Deren