Surrealist filmmaker Maya Deren’s 1943 short, The Witch’s Cradle, is the stuff of sexy nightmares. A terrified young ingenue appears in a romantic Grecian dress—or is it a nightgown? The dreamy setting is unclear, and time is not linear. Strings creep and weave throughout—the literal thread that binds the otherwise erratic series of shots. An old man—played by Marcel Duchamp—manipulates the string into webbing. Elusive shots and occult imagery leave everything in a mysterious haze. The girl reappears—possibly performing a ritual—with a pentagram on her head.
The film is the product of an interesting partnership—Deren from the Greenwich Village avant-garde scene and Duchamp, the conceptual artist and Dadaist. I had originally assumed this was a directorial collaboration, but Duchamp (the more established artist at this point), actually only has an acting credit, with Deren as writer and director. It speaks well of Duchamp that he’d work with a younger, lesser known and female peer. It’s all hard to make heads or tales of—but it’s creepy and cool.
Thanks to Barms!