Meshes of the Afternoon
) is a short experimental film
directed by wife and husband team, Maya Deren
and Alexander Hammid
. The film's narrative is circular, and repeats a number of psychologically symbolic images, including a flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a mysterious Grim Reaper
-like cloaked figure with a mirror for a face, a phone off the hook and an ocean.
In 1990, Meshes of the Afternoon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going into the registry in the second year of voting.
Background and production
The film was the product of Deren's and Hammid's desire to create an avant garde
personal film that dealt with devastating psychological problems, like the French avant-garde films of the 1920s such as Salvador Dalí
and Luis Buñuel
's Un Chien Andalou
(1929) and L'Age d'Or
(1930). Deren's use of symbolism in her films relates to her father's preoccupation with psychology and her desire to appeal to her father's interests.
Deren and Hammid wrote, directed and performed in the film. Although Deren is usually credited as its principal artistic creator, filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who knew the couple, has claimed in his book Film at Wit's End that Meshes was in fact largely Hammid's creation, and that their marriage began to suffer when Deren received more credit.
The original print had no score. However, a musical score influenced by classical Japanese music by Deren's third husband, Teiji Ito, was added under Deren's supervision in 1959.
In the early 1970s, J. Hoberman
claimed that Meshes of the Afternoon
was a commentary on film noir
"This film is concerned with the interior experiences of an individual. It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons. Rather, it reproduces the way in which the subconscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience." - Maya Deren on Meshes of the Afternoon, from DVD release Maya Deren: Experimental Films 1943-58.
The dreamlike (or nightmarish) atmosphere of Meshes
has influenced many subsequent films, notably David Lynch
's Lost Highway
(1997); Wendy Haslem of the University of Melbourne's Cinema Studies department wrote about the parallels:
- Maya Deren was a key figure in the development of the New American Cinema. Her influence extends to contemporary filmmakers like David Lynch, whose film Lost Highway (1997) pays homage to Meshes of the Afternoon in his experimentation with narration. Lynch adopts a similar spiraling narrative pattern, sets his film within an analogous location and establishes a mood of dread and paranoia, the result of constant surveillance. Both films focus on the nightmare as it is expressed in the elusive doubling of characters and in the incorporation of the “psychogenic fugue,” the evacuation and replacement of identities, something that was also central to the voodoo ritual.
Jim Emerson, the editor of rogerebert.com, has also noted the influence of Meshes within David Lynch's film, INLAND EMPIRE.
One of the two music videos for Milla Jovovich's 1993 song "Gentleman Who Fell" is an obvious pastiche of Meshes of the Afternoon.
The music video Your Ghost by Kristin Hersh contains several details from this video short, including the key in the mouth, the winding staircase and the phone off the hook.