Maya Deren--Critical Response Survey

The work of Maya Deren has been, and remains, the center of critique and comparison to other experimental films in her day. There is plenty to say about Deren's films, and so I have narrowed it down to what the larger group of critics have said the most about. There is definitely a consensus that Deren's work largely consists of the enigma of the search for personal identity, which she portrays through dream logic (by distorting space and time), and the use of multiple selves. 91

Meshes of the Afternoon is a perfect example of using dream logic as the focus of her films. According to Sitney, " Meshes explicitly stimulates the dream experience, first in the transition from waking to sleeping (the shadow covers the eye and the window at the end of the first cycle) and later in an ambiguous scene of waking" (p. 13).

In each "cycle" of Meshes, the use of multiple selves is a vehicle for the subjective viewing of one's self, and one's own identity. In the film, each of Deren's "selves" eventually views the other self going through the same motions that the previous one had gone through. All of these women were chasing after the robed figure, and eventually follow "him" up the stairs and into the bedroom. The general concept of identity 'm this work of art says that "the film revolves around this inability to surrender the total personality in a love relationship" (Veve, p.381). The male figure is viewed as dominant while the women see themselves as reflections of this male, searching to find their own true identities.

In some of her other works, the search for personal identity may have been more latent, but in any case, were still very much a part of the films' inner meaning. In At Land, for example, there is a scene where Deren is walking on a beach with a man, who in time, turns into many different men. These different men represent Deren's search for personal identity through men and the roles they have played 'm her life. "So the camera is moving as an eater of space, or a representation of space, and it is leaping in time" (Brakhage, p. I I 1). And as perfectly described by Rabinovitz, "The protagonist has a series of picaresque adventures in which the constantly changing objects, people, and environments around her contrast and ultimately test the strength and stability of her identity" (p.65).

While Deren's films have all been slightly different and experimental in nature, the ongoing search for personal identity, through the use of dream logic, multiple selves, and space and time, has remained the focus of the majority of her works of art. Deren has left us six films. "In each one of them she explored a new formal option", and that is what makes her aft so unique (Sitney, p.24).

--Nicole Brady

Maya Deren