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Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Rita Christiani
Maya Deren
Anaïs Nin ...
Haughty Woman
Frank Westbrook ...
Dancer
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11 October 2003 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Rituálé a megváltozott időben  »

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1.37 : 1
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Referenced in Head (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Consummate film from a true pioneer of the Avant-Garde.
14 April 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Maya Deren was a pioneer: at a time when the Hollywood studio system was at its peak pumping out crowd-pleasing genre movies with huge budgets, Ukrainian born Deren was carving out a position for herself as a self-financed avant-garde female director and (under-rated) film theorist whose films explored the role of women in society through non-narrative cinema which also explored the potential of dance on film. And as such, "Ritual in Transfigured Time" seems to balance both of these strands of her work (compared to the crushing feminist existentialism of her debut "Meshes of the Afternoon" (1943) and her totally abstract dance-dominated later films like "The Very Eye of Night" (1958)) and stand as possibly the greatest encapsulation of the themes that motivated her.

The film is essentially in three parts in the classic set-up / conflict / resolution style but the transitions between each "act" is characterized by a dream-like spatial shift: at first from a room where a young dancer (Rita Christiani) helps Maya manically roll a ball of wool, before being led by another woman (played by prolific diarist and Henry Miller's squeeze, Anaïs Nin) to a crowded cocktail party. Whilst here, the young woman navigates through the gathered party-goers whose movements in and out of conversations become increasingly stylized and choreographed until they are essentially dancing. Finally, the young dancer meets a young man and the scene switches to outside where the young man pursues the woman in a manner both elegant and threatening.

As with earlier Deren's films "Meshes of the Afternoon" and "At Land" (1946), the film seems to have something to say (in this case about the various social rituals, sometimes so choreographed as to be a "dance", which we are forced to perform) and does actually convey this through a plot…albeit a dream-logic one. However, like a poet, Deren also articulates her message through the choices she makes in regard to the form of the film – in this case the unusual spatial cuts and use of effects like freeze-framing and negative prints – which, rather than distract us from the story (as in a "traditional" film), makes us question the relation between the events happening on screen as well as our relationship to it, with the effect that we are pulled further and further into Deren's unique vision.


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