Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Quintessentials - Meshes of the Afternoon

Meshes of the Afternoon. Maya Dern and Alexander Hammil.
USA. 13:30. 1943.

Meshes of the Afternoon is a formative experimental short film directed by husband/wife duo Maya Deren and Alexander Hammil. The plot vaguely follows the meanderings of a woman and splices shots of her with recurring thematic motifs- a loaf of bread, a flower, a key, and a hooded figure with a mirror where his face should be all make regular appearances. This all creates a feeling, as the title strongly suggests, of dreamy, hazy suggestion. The surreal quality of the images is enhanced by a stark and haunting soundtrack of what sounds like traditional Japanese music.

The film's obsessive focus on its woman protaganist in tandem with its surreal repeating imagery is obviously suggestive of a psychologically dense dream. Countless interpretations can be read here. Perhaps the falling flower is meant to symbolize the woman's perceived loss of agency of her sexual identity as a woman? Perhaps it's meant to symbolize her fear of aging? Death? If it does indeed symbolize death, then that idea is certainly bolstered by the presence of the mirrored grim reaper figure. What seems important here too is the fact that the images can be read so many ways. Their very vagueness seems to be central to the film, and allows it to defy a simply reading, choosing instead to favor something just a bit more mysterious.

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