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Maya Deren – At Land Essay

1668 words - 7 pages

Research Paper
Maya Deren – At Land

Maya Deren was an experimental filmmaker who was engaged in many additional artistic spheres, including music, dance and poetry, and which helped her to create six films that are well-known in the world of Avant-Garde cinema. She produced her first work, Meshes of the Afternoon in 1943 together with her husband Alexander Hammid, and a year later she completed her second work At Land. These two films placed the beginning of her career as a filmmaker and classified her as a pioneer of the modern and aesthetic American film. As a graduate student in English literature and Symbolist poetry from Smith College, she was able to transform her verbal knowledge ...view middle of the document...

Deren’s modernist and experimental techniques allow the viewers to use their imagination and look beneath the reality surface, so they can shift themselves into a dream-like atmosphere in which two worlds – natural and social, are harmonically emerging.
The fifteen minute running time of the film in which Maya Deren plays the featured role represents the actual desire of the character to maintain her personal identity by starting a new dream-like life. The heroine is washed out from the sea, which is used by Daren as a symbol of new beginning and opportunities. She starts crawling and finds herself on a banquet table, surrounded with men and women, for whom Deren stays invisible. The protagonist, who is the main figure in the traditional trance film, uses this given power to move through the people and chase her ideals. Therefore, the heroine drags herself to the end of the table and finds a chess board which figures move by themselves. Deren uses the banquet hall and game as representation of the social world which she just has entered. This is a space in which, powerful and wealthy men have an ultimate power over the ordinary person and they control every happening event. She tries to take one of the figures, but accidently drops it and starts chasing it. Suddenly, Daren situates herself outside, surrounded by rocks, sand and trees. She starts walking on a path and meets a man who is constantly being replaced by another one. The heroine keeps going and enters a small house in which she goes from one room to another and suddenly notices another man, who is staring at her, but doesn’t say anything. Finally, Deren finds herself again on the beach and sees another chess game in progress between two women. She steals another chess figure and keeps running, giving the viewer the idea that she is going back to the sea, which was her departure point at the beginning of the film. The camera transfers the character slowly and continuously from one world to another, by showing Deren’s childish curiosity and concentrating viewers’ attention either on her eyes and hands, as the parts of the body that absorb new information, or her feet, to emphasize her separation from the previous scene. Deren highlights the power of moving body within time and space, and as Sitney states, “At Land has little to do with the inner world of the protagonist, it externalizes the hidden dynamics of the external world, and here the drama results from the activity of the external world. It is as if I had moved from a concern with the life of fish, to a concern with the sea which accounts for the character of the fish and its life” (26). The transition between the scenes of the film is driven by the discoveries of the heroine, not initially by her inner thoughts.
At land is a reflection of Deren’s interest of creation of new images of time and the energy, movement and dynamics between them. Similarly to Benjamin’s ideas, she understood the importance of mechanical...

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