May 13, 2013

"Meshes of the Afternoon" is one of Maya Deren’s most acclaimed films.  It seems to be diametrically opposed to "Un Chien" in some ways and remarkably similar to it in others.  "Un Chien" is much more outwardly violent—the tone is lighter, but the images are shocking—while "Meshes" uses image and its soundtrack to inspire suspenseful tension, like that of a nightmare.  I find "Meshes" much more disturbing than "Un Chien" for that reason.  But the two both feature dreamlike imagery, and they both end at the seaside in some type of death (literal or metaphorical, perhaps both).  

It’s fascinating in its approach to consciousness.  The film uses dreams to imply that we are traveling deeper and deeper into its subject’s psyche, and the images get more and more surreal the deeper we go.  A once-traversable staircase now moves with the camera, making it impossible to climb.  A cloaked figure is revealed to have a mirror as its face.  The subject, played by Deren herself, multiplies; one clone tries to murder the original sleeping Deren.  Several images are repeated multiple times in different but similar contexts, to unsettling effect:  a flower, a key, a knife, a telephone, a phonograph, the mirror, the ocean.  These objects are imbued with an almost sinister power.

Interesting/surreal techniques:

1.  When the stairs move in the same direction as the camera.  Probably a clever trick of the eye?

2.  A knife shatters a man’s face and we see behind it, into a seaside scene.  Could have been an actual physical manipulation of the film.

3.  The mirror-as-face may have been a physical mirror, but it also could have been some type of matte.

4.  More than one Deren:  some type of superimposition or composite.

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