MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON
This 1943 experimental short is by no means a
traditional horror movie, but it is among the most vital and influential such
films. Quite simply, no scary movie collection is complete without it!
14-minute MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON, the premiere film by the famed avant-gardist
Maya Deren (whose subsequent efforts include AT LAND and THE VERY EYE OF NIGHT),
was a seminal event in underground moviemaking, and remains among the most
famous such films.
Co-directed with Alexander Hammid (the degree of whose
input remains a subject of debate), itís a surreal account of one womanís
psychological breakdown, anticipating such films as
Roman Polanskiís REPULSION, Robert Altmanís
IMAGES and David Lynchís
INLAND EMPIRE. On a darker note, the final image of MESHES, showing
its heroine (played by Deren) murdered, eerily anticipated Maya Derenís own 1961
In a posh LA mansion an attractive young woman repeatedly chases a hooded
flower-bearing figure down the outside walkway. Inside, after falling asleep in
a chair, the woman finds herself caught up in an increasingly surreal universe
where the laws of physics donít seem to apply and an errant bread knife turns up
wherever she goes.
With so much repetition going on the woman eventually finds herself
interacting with several identical twins. At one point she stabs at one of her
other selves--upon which it which turns into a man (presumably the womanís
husband). She uses the bread knife to stab him a second time, but his face
turns into a mirror that breaks, its shards landing on a beach to be washed away
by the tide.
Here the film switches viewpoints to that of the man, who finds the flower
previously held by the hooded figure at the front door of the mansion. He
enters to find the woman dead, having apparently committed suicide.
This film can be interpreted in many ways: as a meditation on suicide
(which some believe was the true cause of Maya Derenís death), a fractured look
at a disintegrating marriage, or an exploration of the inner world of a
schizophrenic. Its use of repeated elements--a bread knife, a flower, a
key--demonstrates a real grasp of the subconscious, which filters reality
through such symbols.
Maya Derenís (and/or Alexander Hammmidís) filmmaking
savvy is evident throughout, particularly in the skilled editing, with its
continually imaginative and unexpected segue ways from inside the mansion to
outside and vice-versa (i.e. a POV shot through an ancient phonograph
speaker). The filmís use of mirrors (rarely intact) is impressive and quite
appropriate considering the divided nature of its protagonist. The dark haired
Deren proves quite memorable as that protagonist, an undeniably attractive woman
trapped in a relentless psychotic nightmare.
MESHES IN THE AFTERNOON
Directors: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid
Screenplay: Maya Deren
Cinematography: Alexander Hammid
Editing: Maya Deren
Cast: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid