Aimless Walk

Alexander Hammid

Although the breakthrough 1943 experimental film Meshes of the Afternoon is often credited to Maya Deren, it was co-directed by her then husband Alexander Hammid. And while it was (possibly) Deren’s first film, Austrian-born Hammid had been making short films in Czechoslovakia for over a decade, under his original name of Alexandr Hackenschmied.

Hammid’s debut came with Aimless Walk, shot in 1930. It follows an unidentified man through Prague, although the camera is largely disengaged from the expected multitudes and monuments, instead following this enigmatic flaneur (by tram) to the liminal spaces of the city. Sometimes we observe him, sometimes we are him. In this dreamlike atmosphere, Hammid observes manual labour as if it were an exotic dance, his camera propelled by whim and happenstance, lingering where it may. With its intimacy and modest scale, Aimless Walk works as a kind of sonata version of Walther Ruttmann’s 1927 Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt.

Moving to the US in 1939, Hammid made a number of films apart from his famous collaboration with Deren, including the very first IMAX film. Martina Kudláček borrowed the title of Hammid’s first film for a documentary about him, made in 1997 and prefacing later studies of Deren and Marie Menken. One of Hammid’s last appearances was for yet another documentary about Deren (Maya Deren, Take Zero) before his death in 2004 at the age of 96.

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3 comments

  1. There most certainly is a celluloidal connection between the respective filmic energies of Walter R and Alexander H. It is the phallocratic will to being that one finds in any great male-centric aesthetic aggression.

    Yet Hamid’s film is luscious and sensuous and effulgent and rapturous in ways that a strutting and fretting Ruttman is not and never can be: visual poesis of the most exquisite order, if you will.

    Embedded deep within your narrative is an unwritten essay dying to realize itself : in a herculean irony of mis-naming/re-naming/un-naming a great artist must reduce himself to a contraction to better fit into a regnant Kultur. In the unchartable logo-metric vastation between Hackenschnmeid and Hammid ( the latter stinks of the souk and the casbah) ; a neologism forged from a runic alphabet in a universe of misapprehension and misprision, lies a cosmic unspoken angst that desperately needs unveiling.

    AH finds ecstasis wherever he gentles the sweet embrace of his gaze. This, in the Prague of Kafka.

    When you share treasures like this it always leaves me weak in the knees.

  2. I love the way our flaneur splits in two at the end – part of him returning by tram to his life, the other – perhaps his spirit – drifting ever on…

  3. Pingback: Aimless Walk | Psychogeography | Scoop.it

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