Dec 1, 2008

Meshes of the Afternoon

Early art house filmmaker Maya Deren came to the United States after a series of “anti-Semitic” (translation = Anti-Bolshevik) pogroms in Russia. Deren’s “intellectual” father was a fan of Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky who was a man responsible for deaths of millions of people mainly due to their social class. Apparently Deren’s greatest film Meshes of the Afternoon was made to get the attention of her father. I guess Daddy didn’t give daughter Maya enough love.

Meshes of the Afternoon is about as “auteur” as American films get. Maya was influenced by the early short works of Luis Buñuel and one can only assume Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet. Although Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl is without a doubt the greatest female filmmaker of all time, Maya Deren certainly carried her own weight. Meshes of the Afternoon is a surrealistic journey into the subconscious mind and its dirty hidden secrets. Who says that all early American films are embarrassingly formulaic?

Maya Deren stars in Meshes of the Afternoon as a woman always reflecting on herself. She sees another woman many times throughout the short with a mirror on her face staring back at her. No matter how hard Deren chases the mysterious woman, she can never catch up. After all, no one can truly confront their past. Maya Deren has given up her subconscious soul for those to interpret through the art of cinema. The impossibility of catching up with ones true “reflection” already let’s the viewer know that Meshes of the Afternoon can never be truly complete.

Towards the end of Meshes of the Afternoon, Maya appears wearing futuristic looking sphere spectacles and carrying a dangerous looking knife. This predates and is much more “scary” than any subsequent cold war sci-fi film ever would be. Deren also steps from beach to swamp to concrete within seconds. She has been on a journey into a dark past that has left a lot of questions open. At the end of Meshes of the Afternoon, Maya’s assumed lover becomes a horrible mess. Maya is dead and pieces of a mirror surround her. I guess Maya didn’t have such a wonderful past.

-Ty E


Fox said...

This write-up made me curious about that documentary of Maya Deren... In the Mirror of Maya Deren... isn't that what it's called?

Anyways. Have you seen it? I was never really interested in it before, but this has sparked an interest. Is it worth it?

Soiled Sinema said...

I am afraid that I have yet to see the Deren documentary.

I say we both give it a chance?