1944: 1 movie

(Last updated 28 March 2014)

At Land
Written by, directed by, and starring Maya Deren
Cinematography by Alexander Hammid and Hella Heyman

   This is where Maya Deren proves that "Meshes of the Afternoon" (1943) was not just a happy accident, but that she is as legitimate and progressive an artist of cinema as can be. Deren re-uses, from her previous works, many of the same motifs as well as the lead actor (herself) to communicate even more profoundly than in "Meshes". It's almost as if her first two movies, "Meshes" and "Witch's Cradle", were experiments or shock-pieces made to grab our attention, and once she had it, she was ready to really dig deep and share with us something intimate and probing. That's actually saying a lot, given how powerfully innovative "Meshes" is. In "At Land", the frightening mood is gone, and enhanced are the ideas of journey, and the arc of a life. Time, place, and mood are more clearly delineated than in "Meshes", but that's not saying much as they are still very vague and open to interpretation. Silence has completely taken over here, blanking out not only the dialogue and sound effects, but the music as well. That decision works well, since we are forced to focus that much more on the visual communication, and it's so wonderfully communicated that the movie rests in our memory in a way as if it had sound. We can swear that we heard the ocean, heard the main character climbing up the tree stump, and even heard the special sound of a woman's yearning, stretching, and reaching towards spiritual fulfillment, and her ultimate giddy success!
   Maya Deren certainly does capture her dreams. Even in silence, she has created a gripping narrative out of symbols, scattered situations, and complex emotions. Through it all, Deren displays a sensuous love for cinematography by splicing the movie together as if it were all one flowing shot. Which helps us feel the circular aspect of the narrative. It also makes it that much more profound, when we break free of the ouroboros. Besides all that, Deren's a sublimely engaging and lovely actress!

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