Week 5 Viewer Post: Initial questions and insights of three Maya Deren films

1, Meshes of the Afternoon

The film is a repetitive loop that happens to the main female character. We see three same females doing the same thing at one point, only in different time orders. As P. Adams Sitney states in his book Visionary, The American Avant-Garde 1943-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2002), “The transitions between cycles are subtly achieved” (Sitney, 11). A lot of match cuts, the traditional editing used by Hollywood cinema to hide the cuts, were utilized to help create a sense of continuity and repetition.

There are four major elements in this film that serve as symbols although it is still not certain to me what they symbolize. The first one is flower. What comes to mind is virginity, innocence, female beauty, and seduction. The second one is mirror. This is an easy one — self-reflection and reflection of others. Sitney claims, “Deren, with her hands lightly pressed against the window pane, embodies the reflective experience, which is emphasized by the consistent imagery of mirrors in the film” (Sitney, 11). This is a heavily reflective film, as in this scene, window is another reflective element. The third one is key. Key symbolizes the idea of leading to something. This key unlocks confusion, sex, horror, and death. Keys can not only open a door, but also close it. It symbolizes the self-entrapment. At last, the knife. It is self-defense and feminine power. It shatters the mirror.

Questions: How does the protagonist die? / Why does it mean when the key and the knife changes into each other? / Is the mirror related to Lacan’s theory? / Most importantly, what exactly does this film tries to convey, beneath the surface of a dreamy drama?

2, At Land

This film’s scene transition to allude to space change is innovative at the time. The landscape of setting transition always follows a close shot of Deren’s body part. Her feminine soft body is a contrast to the harsh landscape, the hard table, or the mysterious architecture.

She seems to me to derive from the ocean and come to land with curiosity. It is an Odyssey for her. The chessboard was the role. She rebels and breaks the rule. However, she has to return to the cycle by returning that piece she loses during her journey.

Questions: Does the chess playing of The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) has anything to do with this film? / What does the scene transitions symbol? Is it related to nature and modern life? / Sitney mentions in his book that “No one seems to notice her” (Sitney, 18). Why is that, and what does it mean?

3, Ritual in Transfigured Time

I have no idea what this piece is about, but one element I noticed is the “stopping” of time in framed scenes that create photos. It is also an interesting frame at first when the whole screen is split in two by the wall in middle.

Questions: What do the deaths mean in this film? / What does the yarn symbolize?