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.