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Film / Meshes of the Afternoon

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Meshes of the Afternoon is an experimental 1943 14-minute film directed by Maya Deren and her husband, Alexander Hammid, and written by Deren.

The film opens with a mysterious hand placing a rose on a driveway. A woman (Deren) sees the flower, picks it up, and takes it into her apartment. She falls asleep in a chair and appears to have a dream in which she chases after a mysterious hooded and cloaked figure with a mirror for a face. A succession of odd images continue to appear, with one motif focusing on a kitchen knife that changes into a key, then back into a knife, then back into a key. A second and a third woman, played by Deren, both appear, until there are three identical versions of the woman in the kitchen of the apartment. One version of the woman attacks another version of the woman with a knife. Then a man (Hammid) appears, and he seems harmless enough, but he moves just like the cloaked figure with the mirror face...

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Tropes:

  • Dies Wide Open: The woman, as shown when the man comes home and finds her sitting in his armchair, dead.
  • Driven to Suicide: The film seems to be suggesting this. There's the presence of the Grim Reaper-like character, the recurring visual motif of the knife, and the scene where one version of the woman attacks another version of the woman with the knife. See also the ending that finds the woman dead in a chair. The film seems to be an elliptical illustration of some sort of moment of emotional turmoil that ends with the woman killing herself.
  • Feet-First Introduction: For the first few minutes all we see of the woman is her feet as she's walking around.
  • The Grim Reaper: The cloaked figure looks just like the Reaper, except for the mirror face. This may suggest some sort of death wish on the part of the woman.
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  • Jump Cut: One scene uses a series of Jump Cuts to show the woman ascending and then descending the stairs.
  • Le Film Artistique: Oh yes. What does it mean that someone drops a flower in the woman's driveway? Who knows? Why does the key keep turning into a knife and then back into a key? Who knows?
  • Mind Screw: What the hell is going on?
  • Minimalist Cast: The woman and the man, and the cloaked figure who might be Death and who might also be the man.
  • Nameless Narrative: And no dialogue, either, not even title cards.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Un Chien Andalou, a silent short film from 1929 that also is filled with surreal and disturbing imagery.
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