Dancers, shown in photographic negative, perform a series of ballet moves, solos, pas de deux, larger groupings. The dancers glide and rotate untroubled by gravity against a slowly changing... See full summary »
A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.
The surrealist film shows repetitive imagery involving a string fashioned in a bizarre, almost spiderweb-like pattern over the hands of several individuals, most notably an unnamed young woman and an elderly gentleman.
Maya Deren was a pioneer Avant-garde filmmaker who made several movies like this during her lifetime. This one is rather different since (1) it's only 2 minutes, very short for a film by her, and (2) There isn't as much depth to it. Normally Deren's films have a hidden meaning or a hidden story in them; this particular aspect isn't really clear here. To most people this is going to look like a guy dancing in a couple spots, but while the meaning isn't clear, it is there.
Now for those of you who've read my reviews on other Maya Deren films, you'll know that when I analyze a film like this I pick out symbolism and use it to find a hidden narrative. For instance, in the director's first, "Meshes of the Afternoon" we follow a woman as she struggles with her marriage, wondering if what she did was good for her. In that film I used the record playing on the record player to symbolize a beautiful start to the marriage, a knife to convey the couples' relationship being torn apart, a mysterious hooded figure with a mirror for a face to give us the idea of the woman's dark desires being mirrored and reflected until they overcome her, etc. Likewise here. There's a hidden idea here which I will explain in a moment.
The film begins with the dancer Talley Beatty in the forest. What, in this case, does a forest symbolize? Forests are big, wide, never-ending places, evoking a feeling of loneliness. Saying that, we can think that this man portrayed is lonely, at a hard place in his life. Thus, "A Study in Choreography for Camera" is a look at the different areas of a character's life.
The second spot the man dances in is a living room. If you've got a living room in your house, you'll know that they get messy. A messy living room can represent a cluttered mind, so we are now assuming that this second stage in life of the man is cluttered with problems. He has gone from lonely to rushed and confused.
The third spot is a museum. What can a museum symbolize? Wisdom. Knowledge. Wonder. We can assume that through wisdom the man has found out how to fix his life.
But we are all human. We all make mistakes. And so sometimes we slip. That is why suddenly the man finds himself slipping back into the feeling of loneliness he had at the beginning.
But why is the man dancing throughout the film? A lot of people, in these predicaments, would find life unbearable. But this man knows how to handle his feelings. His dance symbolizes joy. Throughout life he knows being unhappy will do him no good, so instead of being miserable he is joyful. From the title, Deren probably hadn't meant to make this movie to be symbolic in any way, but quite unintentionally she has provided us with an interesting morality lesson. It may not LOOK special, but there's a lot more than meets the eye.
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