You might know the photo of 20th-century filmmaker Maya Deren where she’s behind a window, glancing past the camera, the palms of her hands open against the glass. It’s from her silent, black and white 16 mm film, Meshes of the Afternoon, which she co-directed and acted in. I’m haunted by its mystery, where the reflection of the trees seems at one with the woman’s thoughts.
In 1959 when I was a teenager living in Woodstock NY I was accepted by Deren to be an extra in a film she was making in an old hotel near the center of town. I remember being given a dress to wear and told to walk up a staircase at the back of a large vacant room, to be part of the atmosphere. Looking it up now, I find it was her unfinished film, Season of Strangers. In this photo below I must be standing on the balcony to the right.
To me, a woman in a window invites a story and if I don’t know hers, I’ll make one up. One of my favorite French writers is Colette (1873-1954). Here she is looking out of her window on the Palais-Royal in 1941. I image her having a brief conversation with a friend on the street, that I’ve taken (out of context) from her novel Julie de Carneilhan.
“Do you hear that? They were supposed to pick me up at a quarter past eight. It’s turned nine, and there they are kicking up a row on the stairs. Aren’t people awful nowadays? What a crew!”
“Who are they?”
Julie shrugged her shoulders.
“Nobody. Some young friends of mine.”
“Our sort of age?”
She gave him a long, challenging look.
“My dear, would you expect them to be!”
“Well, for Heaven’s sake, drop them for this evening.”
She blushed, and tears came to her eyes.
“No, no, I won’t! Why should I remain all alone when everybody else is having fun? There is a very good film at the Marbœuf and the program changes to-morrow.”
Finally, here’s one more photo of a woman in a window. I can’t remember who took it, or when, or what window it was, but it’s myself some years ago. You can make up your own version of what makes a Wild Woman. I look like I’m thinking about it!
Women in windows offer a kind of inspiration, though it’s not always well defined and sometimes it’s even private. But they always invite you to look inside to find your own meaning for their circumstances.