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Witch's Cradle (1944)

| Short, Fantasy, Mystery
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


Maya Deren


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Uncredited cast:
Marcel Duchamp Marcel Duchamp ... The artist (uncredited)
Pajorita Matta Pajorita Matta ... The girl (uncredited)


An abstract film containing a series of strange and choppy images. A woman, with a witch's symbol on her forehead, stares around a dark room in bewilderment. An artist is seated in the room, string running all around him, over his back. He himself holds a cradle of string in his hands. There are cuts to the same artist and a different woman sitting at a table outside, a beating human heart which stops, and building blocks. The witch's symbol is shown in closeup. There are also a myriad of other images, such as a strange sort of top moving on the floor controlled by string, and a weird circular contraption dangling from the ceiling. Written by Tornado_Sam

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Short | Fantasy | Mystery







Also Known As:

Ведьмина колыбель See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film fragments from Witch's Cradle (1944) are included as an extra on the Zeitgeist Films DVD of In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2001). See more »


Featured in Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015) See more »

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User Reviews

10 August 2017 | by Tornado_SamSee all my reviews

"Witch's Cradle" is Maya Deren's second film, made after her "Meshes of the Afternoon" which is her most celebrated piece. As is to be expected by all her work, it is avant-garde as always, but instead of a dream on film seems more like an abstract impressionistic piece. Apparently also unfinished for reasons unknown--like several of the director's movies--the footage is choppy and unedited with no title cards at all. Interestingly, the artist Marcel Duchamp--who signed a urinal and called it art--took part in the short as well, and the director supposedly does not appear in it at all as she did in many of her films (although she appears to be briefly seen at the table with Duchamp in a couple shots. Despite the aforementioned choppy look of the footage, the film is really quite good.

How could you describe a short like this? I find it hard. The film takes place in a dark room, and it's basically a series of shots of string and people. There's one woman who has a witch's symbol on her head who keeps looking around, and much of the film is a lot of camera angles that show the string looped around the room, running over people's backs and other things. While in a film like this I would normally look for symbolism in the imagery, I think Deren was more trying to make an art film than entwine a symbolic narrative. Also, some of the shots are repeated. It is just very different and there are some parts that are random, such as a beating human heart which is entirely unconnected to the rest of it. In fact, most of what takes place in the movie is extremely incoherent and there doesn't appear to be any real action going on.

I have no idea why it wasn't finished. Maybe Deren had an idea for a new film, or maybe she just was clueless about how to end it. But I like it. An artistic film, and well shot. The bizarre camera angles add a sense of mystery. If you like this kind of filmmaking, then I'd certainly recommend this second effort by Deren, although be forewarned that it does tend to go more for randomness unlike her other more straightforward efforts. With that said, a really different work and one that won't disappoint fans of surrealism.

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