Film icon Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s short, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) creates a dreamlike sequence, playing with non-linear temporal narratives.
Haunted by a cloaked spectre, the protagonist (Maya Deren) attempts to chase this mysterious figure, only to reveal in the place of its face, a mirror, raising questions concerning identity.
The actions of the cloaked figure are later echoed by a man, presumably her lover (Alexander Hammid) whose mirrored actions cast doubt on the health of the relationship, perhaps in part due to an issue with having an identity separate and individual from her lover.
A theme of desperation runs throughout the piece, as Deren’s character fights against time and space, thrown back and forced to relive previous moments, unable to change her interactions, only able to watch.
Issues regarding identity and sensuality are shown through a unique perspective, one that leads the audience to consider the metaphorical implications of the depicted scenes rather than following a linear narrative plot.
Perhaps Meshes of the Afternoon is meant to be viewed as an extended dream sequence, as we see the protagonist slumped in a chair, eyelids flickering. However, nothing can be accepted as reality or truth, as we leave her, throat slit, splayed limply in her chair, discovered by her lover.
Through the manipulation of perspective, Deren and Hammid create an abstract and uncertain world, deeply subjective and metaphorical. The linearity of the plot proves less important than Deren and Hammid’s fearless and innovative experimentation with angles, shadows, time loops and unique cuts to create a feel that is all their own.