Maya Deren

film 3 of 5

Ritual in Transfigured Time

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 28, 2015

Deren’s three women strategy is curious and compelling, elusive and clear at the same time. (Components of the individual, the solidarity of the sex, etc.) Some more superb creative geography cutting (Pudovkin, 1925, Orson Welles, 1952) brings us to a party that, like our own first forays away from domestic shelter and safety, feels both exciting and nerve-wracking. Now nerve-wracking turns toward the dissolute, even to corruption.

Superb choreography! The patterns of coupling and uncoupling that it describes are at first quite pretty. Then repetition starts to reveal unseemly velocity, a permanent glancing separateness. Here is an emptiness unto immorality, and the spectator feeling great sympathy for each perpetrator/victim. The symbol here is clear and, at the same time, roomy (though that might also be this puritan’s too-literal take on things!). Anyway, no wonder she runs! Before the final escape into the ocean and, again, female solitude—evocatively reminiscent of Deren’s At Land—there’s this hopping man. Are those his conquests, pursued and consummated identically? And/or, is he the choice she made?

Deren and Brakhage are comparable in importance, but so distinct in their methods and concerns. In this one, final thing, however, they are so similar. This is the avant garde, beginning and end, off-putting challenge and even disqualifier, or very greatest attribute. What does it mean? Well, let’s think and talk about that …