Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 1942)

Meshes of the Afternoon

I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are,
in case you don’t know”

-The Velvet Underground

Meshes of the Afternoon pushes the viewer to ask questions of what they expect from images. A knife is generally thought of as a weapon of violence and an instrument of murder. When a woman’s body is used parallel to the knife there is an assumption that the sexualization of murder would occur due to the bevy of images produced by horror and non-horror films alike. Identifying with the woman becomes precedent to the horror film in order to feel the terror of being the victim and thus holding up a mirror to the worst societal aspects of femininity. What Deren does with Meshes of the Afternoon is to perceive the violence both self-inflicted and otherwise in one woman’s life through ground-breaking filmmaking techniques and attention to objects. Meshes uses a dream sequence of repetition and complex layering to introduce the possibilities of one woman and the difficulties of trying to break through a mirror, or in this case a house.

The film is loaded with images that align themselves with easy identification like the knife (masculine) and the flower (feminine). The mirror figure seems to slip in and out of frame gracefully, but is always a looming presence, perhaps a truth-sayer or a version of Deren herself. Meshes scatters from any definitive subjective meaning, but the sensory terror of quick pans and edits, and the woozy camera movements mixed with these definitive images like the knife, flower, blood and the mirror create a sense that the movie is about having a female body. But that is merely one reflection of many.

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