Maya Deren’s At Land (1944) opens with a scene of fearsome waves crashing against a desolate shore. It could almost be described as Debussian, save for the unsettling dead and total silence that continues, unabated, throughout the film.
The exotic Deren appears, emerging from a sleep, like a mermaid spit ashore from the crashing waves.
Deren begins slowly climbing a massive, twisted, dead tree trunk; the figure of Deren/Eros embarking on her great existential journey.
The nymph (her face adorned with child-like innocence) slithers on her stomach across a dining room table, populated with faceless corporates. They do not take notice of her, preoccupied with idle chatter and many cigarettes. Her eyes focus on a solitary figure, playing chess at the table’s end. By the time she reaches that end (there are brief, repeated, struggled, exploratory diversions through a mass of shrubbery) she finds the player has just left and, as she gazes at the board, the rest of the room’s occupants are also leaving.
Telekinetically, she moves the chess pieces, until the pawn (one of eight) falls through a hole in the table. She attempts to retrieve it and finds herself back on the shore, then on a country road, walking and talking with a young man (represented by five different men).
She cannot keep up with the man and he leaves her behind as he disappears into a cabin, shutting the foreboding door behind him.
Determined not to be abandoned, she crawls under the log cabin but emerges in a contemporary, nearly abandoned home, laden with furniture, covered in white sheets.