Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Genre: Psychological Thriller and Short Running Time: 14 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 1943 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid Actors: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid

 


 

A

woman (Maya Deren) picks up a flower on her way home. When she goes to unlock the door, she drops the key down a flight of stone steps. This is just the beginning of a hopelessly cryptic piece of surrealist cinema, written by Maya Deren and directed by Deren and Alexander Hamid. By the time a cloaked figure with a mirror for a face appears, eerily strolling away from the home, presided over by screeching music and relentless percussion, things only become weirder.

As if a nightmarish twist on “Groundhog Day,” the woman repeats her investigation of her home, again and again observing recurring imagery of a key, a knife, a phone, and a record player, and following the mirror-faced abomination as it retreats down the flowery path in front of her house. With each revisitation to this otherworldly routine, the woman spawns another iteration of herself, until one copy witnesses two others in the kitchen, fingering keys and knives. Is it all a maddening dream? Though made in 1943, in black and white, with no dialogue, and with a running time of less than 14 minutes, “Meshes of the Afternoon’s” masterly use of special effects, shadows (particularly silhouettes), and repetition is as fascinating as it is horrifying. Whether or not it’s an exercise in pointed symbolism or abstract surrealism (it certainly possesses more of a narrative than “Un Chien Andalou”) or a manifestation of suicidal thoughts, it’s utterly mesmerizing.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10