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Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Not Rated | | Short, Fantasy, Mystery | 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.

Directors:

Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid (as Alexander Hamid)

Writer:

Maya Deren
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Maya Deren ... The Woman
Alexander Hammid Alexander Hammid ... The Man
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Storyline

On her way back home, a solitary woman picks up a frail flower, and then, she drops her key--and when she finally enters her home--exhausted, she falls asleep in a deep and comfortable armchair. However, even in her intimate dreams, an intangible and elusive dark presence blemishes her afternoon nap--she tries to catch it; but, in vain. Now, bizarre but perfect doppelgängers of her physical self materialise in the house, catching a glimpse of a record player playing a never-ending silent tune; a telephone, and a sharp bread knife, as the already confined environment becomes more and more a maze-like purgatory. The knife thirsts for blood; the woman hungers for a way out. Can the undivided mind/matter entity escape consciousness? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Short | Fantasy | Mystery

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

DVD | Edited DVD

Country:

USA

Language:

None

Release Date:

1943 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Meshes of the Afternoon See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$275 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Libary of Congress, in 1990. 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 »

Alternate Versions

The original print of Meshes was completely silent (w/o music). Teiji Ito's score was added to a sound reprint in the 1950's. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Quel Sale Tour (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sombre surrealist nightmare
10 July 2012 | by RomanJamesHoffmanSee 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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