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 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.
When a car hits young Victor’s pet dog Sparky, Victor decides to bring him back to life the only way he knows how. But when the bolt-necked “monster” wreaks havoc and terror in the hearts of Victor’s neighbors, he has to convince them that Sparky’s still the good, loyal friend.
Frankenweenie is a 1984 featurette directed by Tim Burton and co-written by Burton with Leonard Ripps. It is both a parody and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein.
Burton was fired by Disney after the film was completed, as the studio claimed that he had been wasting company resources and felt the film was not suitable for the targeted young audiences.
Tim Burton later directed a feature-length stop-motion animated remake of Frankenweenie with production help from Disney, which was released on October 5, 2012.
The 2012 feature-length remake of Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name is also both a parody of and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 book Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. In the film, a boy named Victor Frankenstein uses the power of electricity to resurrect his dead Bull Terrier, Sparky, but his peers discover what he has done and reanimate their own deceased pets and other creatures, resulting in mayhem. The tongue-in-cheek film contains numerous references to and parodies of elements of Frankenstein and past film versions of it, other literary classics, various horror and science-fiction films, and other films which Burton has directed or produced.
Down by Law is a 1986 American black-and-white independent film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, and Ellen Barkin. The film centers on the arrest, incarceration, and escape from jail of three men. It discards jailbreak film conventions by focusing on the interaction between the convicts rather than on the mechanics of the escape. A key element in the film is Robby Müller’s slow-moving camerawork, which captures the architecture of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou to which the cellmates escape.