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This is a journal I keep to record all things I do within the realm of filmmaking.

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sitney and Meshes of the Afternoon, by Jared Caldwell

Meshes of the Afternoon, a short film depicting one woman's journey within the context of a dream, is one of the first films to further explore where Buñuel and Dali left off within the surrealist movement at the end of the 20's. Though Meshes shares element with multiple styles, the film most closely resembles surrealism. P. Adam Sitney disagrees that Meshes of the Afternoon is a surrealist film because of the lack of the “standard function of dividing imagination from reality”. Instead of separating fantasy from reality, Meshes contains a double ending: one of which she shatters the mirror while in her dream state, the other with her throat slit with shards of glass.

Sitney considers Meshes of the Afternoon to be more of a personal trance film. Elements of the typical trance film are in scenes of Meshes; though the entire film takes place in or around a small condominium, the different parts of the house are presented in exotic ways to provide a pseudo landscape for the protagonist to travel through. Also, the protagonist “passes invisibly among people” due to the dream state she is in. These elements, along with the internal struggle the main character and the “quest for sexual identity” can also classify Meshes as a psycho-drama. “'This film is concerned with the interior experiences of an individual. It does no record an event which could be witnessed by other persons.'” Even though much of Meshes of the Afternoon is shot from a third person perspective, the internal and subconscious are shown externally through the dream. Daren used “a number of montage illusions which created spatial elisions or temporal ellipses for the sake of the psychological reality which informed their vision”. The way that Maya's character seems to almost float and dance around the house also adds to this feeling of some dream state. The use of dreams, montage, and the journey and struggle of the protagonist combine to create a unique perspective on the trance film.

For nearly the entire movie, a detailed dream sequence is used to illustrate the protagonists journey. The importance of dreams, a notion inspired by Freud, is heavily underlined in Meshes of the Afternoon. “The film-makers have observed with accuracy the way in which the events and objects of the day become potent, then transfigured, in dream as well as the way in which the dreamer may realize that he dreams and may dream that he awakes.” The use of the double person (or in the case of Meshes, the triple person), another element of Freudian thought, is shown during the dream sequence as the protagonist dreams of waking, spawning another clone of herself, and repeating the process.

Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon is an important film because this film started up a resurgence of thought in the direction of Dali and Buñuel amidst a smattering of “expressionistic, impressionistic, and realistic films” shown over a ten year hiatus. Meshes explores the subconscious through the use of dreams and symbols. As the protagonist delves into herself through these dreams, what she creates inside of her “dream world” is so powerful, she causes events to occur in reality. The power of dreams and the subconscious in this trance film, although it does not fit perfectly into any mold, is kosher with the thoughts and ideals of both the surrealist and Freudian “vehicles”, creating this work of the interior experience as opposed to the outward.

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