Monday, November 16, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and MAYA DEREN

It was the Scribe who first introduced me to the avant garde filmaker Maya Deren. Maya is a bit of a legend and when I was at art school I was totally smitten by her surreal, trancelike film Meshes of the Afternoon.
Like Jean Cocteau, who I've previously written about as an enormous inspiration and influence, Maya managed to make brilliantly innovative, challenging dreamlike short films on a shoe-string budget. She is quoted as attacking Hollywood by saying, "I make my pictures for what Hollywood spends on lipstick." She also said Hollywood "was a major obstacle to the definition and development of motion pictures as a creative fine-art form."
Her Meshes of the Afternoon is hailed as one of the most influential avant-garde films in America. Other works of Maya's include At Land, Ritual in Transfigured Time and The Very Eye of Night. Maya was a tireless self-promoter and distributor of her own work and toured America doing lectures.
Later in her life, Maya became interested in Voodoun and travelled to Haiti where she filmed and participated in many rituals. Joseph Campbell edited her work for Divine Horseman: The Living Gods of Haiti.
Sadly, Maya died very young at 44 from a brain haemorrhage. The following is a plot summary from Meshes of the Afternoon. It will give you an idea of the dreamy, surreal rhythm to Maya's work. The source of this plot summary is to be found HERE
A solitary flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a phone off the hook: discordant images a woman sees as she comes home. She naps and, perhaps, dreams. She sees a hooded figure going down the driveway. The knife is on the stair, then in her bed. The hooded figure puts the flower on her bed then disappears. The woman sees it all happen again. Downstairs, she naps, this time in a chair. She awakes to see a man going upstairs with the flower. He puts it on the bed. The knife is handy. Can these dream-like sequences end happily? A mirror breaks, the man enters the house again. Will he find her? Written by
And what more could I possibly ask as an artist than that your most precious visions, however rare, assume sometimes the forms of my images. - Maya Deren
portrait of Maya image source:


  1. Thank you for yet another introduction to an artist that sounds so interesting! I love avant garde film and Maya's sound so marvelous! xo

  2. oh i love meshes of the afternoon! what wonderful images and feelings she conjures up. in my 20's i used to go to lots of experimental film screenings and the cinemateque. maybe one day again... i also love the films of Agnes Varda whose early experimental work l'opera-mouffe (though a much later work than maya's) has a similar poetic feel.

  3. Jennifer, I hope you get the chance to watch one of her films. There are some clips on You Tube if you are interested. Pinry,I haven't heard of Agnes Varda but will check it out. Yes, I forgot to mention Maya is a poet and dancer as well. Incredible mind and talent! xx

  4. I've heard about Maya, but have never seen any of her work. Intriguing post! I'll have to poke around on youtube...

  5. ooo just watched a clip...very atmospheric!!!! Unnerving too! xxx

  6. Oh, I've never heard of Maya but she sounds absolutely divine. I wonder if I could find any of her movies, thanks for sharing though:)

  7. I just have so much respect for women in those times who really got out there and did these things, like film making or art. It would not have been easy.


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