The function of film, Maya Deren believed, like most art forms, was to create an experience; each one of her films would evoke new conclusions, lending her focus to be dynamic and always-evolving. She combined her interests in dance, voodoo and subjective psychology in a series of surreal, perceptual, black and white short films. Using editing, multiple exposures, jump cutting, superimposition, slow-motion and other camera techniques to her fullest advantage, Deren creates continued motion through discontinued space, while abandoning the established notions of physical space and time, with the ability to turn her vision into a stream of consciousness.
Meshes of the Afternoon is a short experimental film directed by wife and husband team, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. The film’s narrative is circular, and repeats a number of psychologically symbolic images, including a flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a mysterious Grim Reaper–like cloaked figure with a mirror for a face, a phone off the hook and an ocean. Through creative editing, distinct camera angles, and slow motion, the surrealist film depicts a world in which it is more and more difficult to catch reality.
Ritual in Transfigured Time may be the piece in which Maya Deren puts all her interests and achievements: a surrealistic narrative and dance choreographies. It is beautiful and powerful, but may have too many elements to be coherent and to possess her earlier works’ strength.
At Land is a 15-minute silent experimental film written, directed by and starring Maya Deren. It has a dream-like narrative in which a woman, played by Deren, is washed up on a beach and goes on a strange journey encountering other people and other versions of herself. Deren once said that the film is about the struggle to maintain ones personal identity. The composer John Cage and the poet and film critic Parker Tyler were involved in making the film, and appear in the film, which was shot at Amagansett, Long Island.
In Maya Deren's Meditation on Violence, a young Oriental man with a headscarf and bare torso shadowboxes indoors in front of a series of unadorned walls, light, dark, both shades. He is then shown exercising outside with a sword in an area surrounded by a low stone wall and overlooking a river, before there is a return to the first sequence. Chao-Li Chi’s performance obscures the distinction between violence and beauty. Halfway through the film, the sequence is rewound, producing a film loop.