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Introduction
1943

Maya Deren makes Meshes of the Afternoon, California

"Creativity consists of a logical, imaginative extension of a known reality." Maya Deren

Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential and groundbreaking experimental films of the 20th Century.

A woman (played by Deren) moves through an initially familiar, yet dreamlike domestic space, entering rooms, travelling up and down staircases and along garden paths. Everyday, mundane objects including a flower, a key and a knife, are invested with symbolic meaning and appear in incongruous, unexpected situations that frighten and unnerve. A series of encounters with a hooded, mirror-faced figure heighten the sense of unease and paranoia that permeates the film.

Although set in Los Angeles, Meshes of the Afternoon reacted against everything that Hollywood represented. Influenced by the rhythmic montage work of Eisenstein, the ethereal fluidity of her work went on to inspire Stan Brakhage. In the film, Deren constructs a cyclical dreamscape in which repeated movement, false eye-line matches and unnatural camera angles produce a vision of existential reality based on memory, association and emotion. Heralded by P Adams Sitney as the first 'trance film' and as a forerunner of the 'poetic psycho-drama', at times the camera assumes a subjective focus, so that the woman becomes both dreamer and dreamed, trapped in an unresolved narrative that is saturated with restlessness and alienation. The concept of duality and doppelgangers is also addressed, as the female protagonist seems to transform into and embody a series of personalities while drifting through a mise-en-scene of replicas, glass and mirrored surfaces.

Lara Thompson

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Still from Meshes of the Afternoon

Courtesy of the artist/Lux
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