Meshes of the Afternoon

Released:  1943

Cast:  Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid

SUMMARY:  As an unnamed woman returns to her house, she sees a figure in black robes on the same street.  She then goes into her house and notices a knife in a loaf of bread and a telephone that is off the hook.  She sits down in a chair and falls asleep, and begins to dream about the same sequence of events that she just lived.  She tries to chase the black figure, who has a mirror for a face but cannot keep up; she then comes into the house, sees the phone and knife in various different places, as well as a phonograph and a flower, then follows the black figure (who has reappeared in the house) to the bedroom, where he hides the knife under a pillow.  The woman dreams this sequence repeatedly, and finally takes the knife and tries to kill her sleeping self.  However, she is interrupted by the arrival of a man (presumably her husband); as she follows him into the house, she notices that he acts and moves much the same as the black figure.  She takes the knife from the bed and hits him in the head with it, but his head breaks into mirror pieces, which scatter on a beach.  Once more, the man is seen approaching the house from outside, but when he enters this time the woman is dead in her chair.

MY TAKE:  This is an “art” film, and I did not expect to understand it, since I usually don’t understand that type of movie.  I don’t want to have to read between the lines and pick up on subliminal messaging when I’m watching a movie.  Basically, I want to enjoy myself and not have to think too hard.  Though I have frequently mis-guessed movies in the past, I wasn’t wrong on this one:  I didn’t get it, for the most part.  I did get that there’s some sort of unstated hostility between the man and woman, and that she probably has some mental issues.  Other than that, I can’t really say.  At first, I thought maybe she was just crazy, since she kept reliving the same series of events; then I thought she had a death wish, since she kept focusing on the knife; then I thought she had multiple personalities; then I thought she wanted to kill the husband, and then I thought the husband was killing her without realizing it.  I have no idea which, if any of these, is correct.  Apparently, Deren and Hammid, who were married at the time, wanted to create a film that showed horrible psychological problems, and wanted to channel other films like An Andalusion Dog (which I also didn’t get).  Here’s what I wonder:  how accurately can you make a film like that, without actually suffering from a horrible psychological problem?  Maybe that’s why they don’t make sense, because it’s completely imagined.  It doesn’t help that you’re never really sure (at least I’m not) if the person in the film is nuts, or if they just decided to throw together some random images and call it a movie.  A little backstory would help a lot.

RATING:  Skip it.