This film is really out there. It so deep into the world of underground cinema that the only place I could find to watch it is on You Tube (though you can buy it at Amazon.com). Don’t even think about asking for it at FYE or any other movie retailer since it’s very likely that they won’t have it on shelf. You would have to special order it. The film I’m talking about is Maya Deren’s At Land, an avant-grade film surprisingly from 1944. When I hear of a movie that was made in that time period, I think of Humprey Bogart and Peter Lorre, not an experimental film shot in someone’s backyard.
Despite the date that it was made in, At Last still holds the elements of a well crafted experimental, which still exist today. It challenges us to watch a film that is the total opposite of Hollywood cinema. It makes us forget what we knew about the well-known narrative and the mainstream style of editing. Having these challenges and taking this test is definitely a good thing.
After viewing a couple other avant-grade films, At Land is more comprehensible and not as confusing and distorted as other films. For say, it’s not as weird as Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man, which is just weird. Some say that experimental films don’t have story lines, and they’re just a jumbled mess of images and some times sound. At Land has a storyline (to some extent at least) so it makes it a little bit easier and, for some, more enjoyable to watch.
Maya Deren’s first film is Meshes of the Afternoon, another experimental which is quite similar to At Land. The “story lines” are different, but the style of cinematography and editing are similar. And they feature the same main actor, Maya Deren. Since they have a lot in common, it would be interesting to combine these films into one.
In order to really appreciate movies as a piece of art, we need to watch the whole spectrum of filmmaking. We need to watch the good, the bad, and the really bad. Believe me, it helps. After watching At Land, you look at what Hollywood and even independent companies are making with a deferent eye. It may take viewing a couple of experimental films, but after you watch them you start to realize that movies don’t have to be what they are in the theaters.
There’s nothing wrong with how they are, but it’s not the only way and I’m sure some people feel that the experimental films are not real movies. It’s not a bad thing if you don’t like experimental films; they’re not for every one just a small select audience. There’s a reason why they’re called experimental, they’re experiments.