Maya Deren

film 1 of 5

Meshes in the Afternoon

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 28, 2015

Like, say, some of the music of Miss Joni Mitchell, this may not be made for people like me. Certainly when I first saw it, all those years ago, it left me in a combination of mild confusion and mild disinterest. Well, I’m still on the outside, but in possession of quite a few more interpretive tools, and maybe more knowledge and sympathy. A stunner! Deren herself warned against trying to appropriate or even interpret it. It’s hard to resist—seeking female communion and possibly revelation, repeatedly waylaid by bland convenience, or duty, or a man (a relationship, or a marriage, or something which causes you to define yourself by means of something outside of yourself).

Even dispensing with possible meanings, Meshes in the Afternoon beautifully manages three really important things. It provides a completely viable alternative to the commercial status quo, to all of the familiar ways of telling stories or revealing character or suggesting reality. It leaves one asking the question one always asks after exposure to a really stirring avant garde film. Why don’t more people make more films like this? The alternative is viable because it’s so superbly put together. Beautiful shots, beautifully assembled. Special effects! It’s a great looking thing. Finally, whatever her dream may mean, this really does replicate the experience of dreams, with their serenities and anxieties, with the ways that one can be intensely inside and analytically outside the dream narrative, with their potential for shock and revelation. The broken mirror! The sea! The end!