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Ritual in Transfigured Time1945

  • 4.0
Elusive and enigmatic, RITUAL IN TRANSFIGURED TIME begins with its director, the avant-garde pioneer filmmaker Maya Deren, winding a seemingly endless skein of yarn. She is joined by a young woman (the Trinidadian dancer Rita Christiani, one of Deren’s closest friends) who is then led away from their increasingly nightmarish domestic task and into a party filled with luminaries from the 1940s art world (look for Anaïs Nin, Gore Vidal, John Cage and dancer/Deren collaborator Frank Westbrook within the crowd). At the soirée, the guests gesture with fleeting, graceful, movements that coalesce into the steps of an intricate dance. Suddenly outdoors, in New York's Central Park, they dance, float and leap thorough space, into and out of each others arms, and among statues and columns. Deren's dash into the Atlantic Ocean in the film's final act was her last on-camera appearance during her lifetime. Soon, she would leave Greenwich Village in favor of Haiti and turn her attention from the struggle for personal expression to the struggle for collective spirituality. The film ends in eerie reversal footage as Christiani, having turned from black to white, falls, veiled, through the ocean depths. - Livia Bloom

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3 members like this review

Ritual in Transfigured Time is a rite of passage where “a widow becomes a bride”. Ritual archetypes juxtaposed with images of modernity and frozen matter - freeze frames, statues, bodies – are ‘spiritualized’ through movement, similarly how symbolist poetry (one of Deren’s poetic influences) ‘spiritualized language’. With this film, she began to solidify a connection between art and ethnography. The film was made before she went to Haiti in 1947 to make a film on Haitian dance. She called Ritual in Transfigured Time a rite of passage - a metamorphic journey from one part of life to another.

The journey begins with the initiator of the ritual (Maya), moving back and forth in a room, smiling and talking to someone who is not there. The entrance of the widow (Rita Christiani) is described as ”sleep-walking”. She approaches a ball of wool, (set to a metronome for winding). The weaving constitutes a basic feminine rite where the initiate is woven into a new form. The woman at the doorway (Anaïs Nin) is responsible for her initiation—’the initiator’. The widow then enters a party and meets her future husband. Deren used slow motion to film “the moments between: the standing and the sitting, the seeing and the greeting, the coming and the going.” Following the cocktail party is a ritual dance. (In the shooting script and outtakes, this was called "The Lascivious Folk Ballet” set in Central Park, a May-pole dance with Talley Beatty and Rita Christiani, included in Martina Kudlácek’s In the Mirror of Maya Deren).

Three modern archetypes of the Norns or the Moirae (the Greek goddess Fate) and the husband are shown in freeze frames to evoke their mythic origin. As the husband reaches out to catch the bride in ”The Impossible Pursuit”, she flees in fear towards Pt. Jefferson, completing her metamorphosis where she plunges into the bottom of the sea, echoing the final moments of Meshes. As she plunges (shown in negative film), we recall the entrance to the cocktail party where she is to meet her potential husband, dressed in a black bridal gown and white cross. Thus "the widow becomes a bride", floating in a white bridal gown. The conception prefigures the use of negative in The Very Eye of Night.

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Member Reviews (4)

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Ritual in Transfigured Time is a rite of passage where “a widow becomes a bride”. Ritual archetypes juxtaposed with images of modernity and frozen matter - freeze frames, statues, bodies – are ‘spiritualized’ through movement, similarly how symbolist poetry (one of Deren’s poetic influences) ‘spiritualized language’. With this film, she began to solidify a connection between art and ethnography. The film was made before she went to Haiti in 1947 to make a film on Haitian dance. She called Ritual in Transfigured Time a rite of passage - a metamorphic journey from one part of life to another.

The journey begins with the initiator of the ritual (Maya), moving back and forth in a room, smiling and talking to someone who is not there. The entrance of the widow (Rita Christiani) is described as ”sleep-walking”. She approaches a ball of wool, (set to a metronome for winding). The weaving constitutes a basic feminine rite where the initiate is woven into a new form. The woman at the doorway (Anaïs Nin) is responsible for her initiation—’the initiator’. The widow then enters a party and meets her future husband. Deren used slow motion to film “the moments between: the standing and the sitting, the seeing and the greeting, the coming and the going.” Following the cocktail party is a ritual dance. (In the shooting script and outtakes, this was called "The Lascivious Folk Ballet” set in Central Park, a May-pole dance with Talley Beatty and Rita Christiani, included in Martina Kudlácek’s In the Mirror of Maya Deren).

Three modern archetypes of the Norns or the Moirae (the Greek goddess Fate) and the husband are shown in freeze frames to evoke their mythic origin. As the husband reaches out to catch the bride in ”The Impossible Pursuit”, she flees in fear towards Pt. Jefferson, completing her metamorphosis where she plunges into the bottom of the sea, echoing the final moments of Meshes. As she plunges (shown in negative film), we recall the entrance to the cocktail party where she is to meet her potential husband, dressed in a black bridal gown and white cross. Thus "the widow becomes a bride", floating in a white bridal gown. The conception prefigures the use of negative in The Very Eye of Night.

3 members like this review

I had never heard the term "trance film" before, but this is clearly one of them. It's part surrealism, part modern dance, and part cinematic exploration (i.e. what film tricks can we use to make the viewer feel uncomfortable?). I didn't find it particularly moving, but I can see how people who enjoy modern dance would really enjoy this sort of thing.

1 member likes this review

The first time I saw a Maya Deren film was memorable. Even though it was a silent film, I could hear the music in my mind. "Ritual in Transfigured Time" conveyed the same sense. I'm glad many more of her films are here, and looking forward to seeing her classic "Meshes of the Afternoon" again.

I liked the flowing nature of the film with a look at 1940's styles of the avant-garde people before they were hugely famous..The story became exciting when the group appeared at central park still in a floating dancing mode..Ya gotta wonder what the 1940's crowd at the park made of these beatnicks acting all "avant garde"...