Maya Deren & Alexandr Hackenschmied (1943)
Maya Deren conceived, directed, and played the central role in Meshes of the Afternoon, her first film that helped chart the course for American experimental, avant-garde, and dadaist cinema. It was shot without dialogue or sound and in black and white. In only 14 minutes this relatively spare format unfolds an unsettling, fully realized narrative which blurs the barrier between the projections of the mind—thoughts, urges, emotions, dreams—and the external, waking world. Working with her then-husband Alexandr Hackenschmied, Deren sought to make a film that would portray “the inner realities of an individual and the way in which the subconscious will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience.”
“A truly creative work of art creates a new reality”Maya Deren
Maya Deren was a Ukrainian-born American experimental filmmaker and important promoter of the avant-garde and dadaism in the 1940s and 1950s. Deren was also a choreographer, dancer, film theorist, poet, lecturer, writer, and photographer. The function of film, Deren believed, was to create an experience. She combined her expertise in dance and choreography, ethnography, the African spirit religion of Haitian Vodou, symbolist poetry and gestalt psychology in a series of perceptual, black-and-white short films. Using editing, multiple exposures, jump-cutting, superimposition, slow-motion, and other camera techniques to her advantage, Deren abandoned established notions of physical space and time, in carefully planned films with specific conceptual aims. Meshes of the Afternoon, her collaboration with Alexandr Hackenschmied, has been one of the most influential experimental films in American cinema history.