Witch's Cradle

Witch's Cradle ★★★★

2nd Maya Deren (after Meshes of the Afternoon)

A series of roughly connected rushes spliced together in some order, we'll never know how Witch's Cradle was supposed to look. All we can do is watch the various takes of the same scene, each with slight variations of how the actresses moves her face or body, and try and work out where things were going. It's movie-detective play in the purest form of the term, made even more tantalising by the strange occult symbols that appear throughout the eleven minutes, especially the Pentagram on the young woman's head. In between these rushes is a piece of semi-finished trickery, that of a piece of string winding its way across a man's body, said man incidentally played by R.Mutt himself, Marcel Duchamp. Whoever put the images together after the fact (maybe a bored Deren? Or some other fellow who found the outtakes in a vault?) tried to graft a narrative to events, but it ends up being almost impenetrable series of movements and shadows, choreographed to some inner rhythm that is lost to time. All of this means that the experience of watching Witch's Cradle is a baffling but gorgeous one, filled with pieces of modern art from Guggenheim's Art of this Century gallery. Deren shot most of her films silent, with scores added much later by Teiji Ito, and while there is no musical cue to help us understand what mood we are meant to be experiencing, the austere silence provides a better space from which we can observe the interplay of light and shadows that ripple across the sculptures and constructions that the girl interacts with. It gives the strange visual texture of night, of dreams, of mystery, and that isn't half bad to experience.

Deren in Order:
1. Meshes of the Afternoon
2. Witch's Cradle

Ethan liked these reviews

All