Meshes of the Afternoon

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Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) is a short experimental film directed by wife and husband team, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. The film's narrative is circular, and repeats a number of psychologically symbolic images, including a flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a mysterious Grim Reaper–like cloaked figure with a mirror for a face, a phone off the hook and an ocean. Through creative editing, distinct camera angles, and slow motion, the surrealist film depicts a world in which it is more and more difficult to catch reality.

In 1990, Meshes of the Afternoon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going into the registry in the second year of voting.

According to a 2010 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, the film cost only $275 to make.

Contents

Plot

A woman sees someone on the street as she is walking back to her home. She goes to her room and sleeps on a chair. As soon as she sleeps, she sees a dream in which she repeatedly tries to chase a mysterious hooded figure but is unable to catch it. With each failure, she re-enters her house and sees numerous household objects like a key, a knife, a flower, a telephone and a phonograph. She sees Grim Reaper in her bedroom who hides a knife under the pillow. She tries to kill her sleeping body with a knife but is awakened by a man. The man leads her to the bedroom and she realizes that everything she saw in the dream was actually happening. She notices that the man's posture (hiding knife under the pillow) is similar to the Grim reaper she saw in her dream. She attempts to injure him and fails. Towards the end, it's revealed that the man walks into the house and finds broken flowers. He see the sleeping lady who cut her throat in the chair.

The film depicts a linear experimental plot which is disturbed by numerous stills. The psychological aspect behind the last scene is that the lady was suffering from dual personality. This was depicted through disturbing images like knife, key, flower and music player. Her condition of dual personality finally committed her to suicide while sleeping.

Directors Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid portrayed the role of the woman and the man in the movie.

Background and production

The film was the product of Deren's and Hammid's desire to create an avant garde personal film that dealt with devastating psychological problems, like the French surrealist films of the 1920s such as Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L'Age d'Or (1930).

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