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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Maya's Song

Maya Deren in Meshes of the Afternoon

She directed just a handful of short movies, yet she was the greatest, the marvelous princess of the movie avant-garde. Meshes of the Afternoon was made in 1943. You watch it, then it enters your soul, slowly, it's taking time, it enters layer by layer, without rush, it's like a depot medicine. I will come back on it, and I will talk of all her movies.

It is 14 minutes long, The main character (played by her, by Maya Deren) has a nightmare, and it gets more and more real; well, I haven't yet seen a movie where such nightmares were played with so much delicacy and grace.

Nothing is explained in the movie, the same scenes come again, and again, and again, Maya gets a clone, a second clone, a third clone, a fourth, the key becomes a knife, then a phone out of the cradle, a faceless phantom comes every time, a man enters the house, we'll never know whether he's the lover, or the husband, or the killer.

Reality and illusion, awareness and dream, profane and ritual, in unsolvable tension; the tension sublimated in a delicate choreography.

Think at Un Chien Andalou and try to imagine the same absurd as in Bunuel's movie, only veiled in grace. Maya Deren's absurd is graceless, no more cynical, it's an unreal ballet with floating dancers. However, under this grace there is a very precise logic.

The second movie of her, At Land: think this time at the fantastic stories of Mircea Eliade.

She was borne in Kiev in 1917, as Eleonora Derenkovskaja. The name of Eleonora was given after a famous Italian actress of the epoch, Eleonora Duse. Her family left Ukraine in 1922, to head to America.

They became in America Deren from Derenkovski. She would change later also her first name, from Eleonora in Maya, as Maya had been Buddha's mother, also the mother of Hermes, goddess of mountains and plains. And in Sanskrit Maya means Illusion.

Her premature death in 1961 would remain for ever veiled in mystery. Was it a ritual assassination, a punishment ordered by Voodoo priests, as she knew too much of their secrets? Has Maya come after her death in front of some friends, invoked in Spiritist gatherings? Well, when it comes to Maya Deren, everything is possible.

It remains her image from Meshes of the Afternoon, watching us with pure and deep regards, fragile and watchful, her eyes looking at us while also into herself. Man, she was of a Boticellian beauty!




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