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Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

| Short | 1943 (USA)
A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.

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Cast

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Maya Deren ...
Alexander Hammid ...
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Storyline

A solitary flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a phone off the hook: discordant images a woman sees as she comes home. She naps and, perhaps, dreams. She sees a hooded figure going down the driveway. The knife is on the stair, then in her bed. The hooded figure puts the flower on her bed then disappears. The woman sees it all happen again. Downstairs, she naps, this time in a chair. She awakes to see a man going upstairs with the flower. He puts it on the bed. The knife is handy. Can these dream-like sequences end happily? A mirror breaks, the man enters the house again. Will he find her? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A délután szövevénye  »

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Budget:

$275 (estimated)
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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

When The Woman tries to open the supposedly locked door for the first time, it gives way a little (too much). See more »

Connections

Featured in Edge Codes.com: The Art of Motion Picture Editing (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sombre surrealist nightmare
10 July 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

'Meshes of the Afternoon' is the first and best-known film of experimental film-maker Maya Deren, whose surrealist tinged movies explore time, space, self, and society and have had a lasting influence on American cinema. 'Meshes…' begins with a hand reaching down, as if from Heaven, leaving a flower on a pathway which a woman (Deren) picks up on her way to her house. When she arrives she ascends some stairs, gets her key out, unlocks the door and enters the house. Already an ominous absence is present, and a subsequent tour of the house shows us a bread-knife, a telephone off the hook, and up another flight of stairs we see an empty bed. After the woman falls asleep, these domestic objects' double life as Freudian symbols is revealed and charged with increasing potency with each repetition of the cyclical narrative until the films catastrophic denouement.

In using Freudian symbology and a cyclical narrative, 'Meshes…' certainly has a dream logic which is reminiscent of surrealist films likes Cocteau's 'Blood of a Poet' as well as Dali and Bunuel's 'Un Chien Andalou'. However, Deren actively rejected the "Surrealist" tag and the difference between 'Meshes' and these seminal surrealist works is marked. Firstly, despite the repeating narrative, objects suddenly transforming into something else, and a lead character that splinters into four, the dramatic structure of 'Meshes…' is quite tight and even though the viewer is challenged in regard to interpretation it struck me as quite straightforward compared to some of her later films. Secondly, the dreamscape of 'Meshes…' is not a celebratory realm liberated from reason, but rather a more claustrophobic and sombre world inhabited by a Grim-Reaper like image with a mirrored face, and the splintered identities of the protagonist who at one point congregate around the kitchen table.

Since it was made, the film has had an immense impact both cinematically (in inspiring a new generation of film-makers to pick up the camera) and culturally given that the most favoured interpretation is that it is a feminist commentary on gender identity and sexual politics in an era when the role of women was changing dramatically. One might think that, in an era when David Lynch is mainstream and woman are arguably liberated, 'Meshes…' would feel dated. However, this is not the case, and remains fresh and engaging to a modern viewer in addition to its (deserved) status as a fascinating and influential piece of early experimental film.


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