A large flower, the silhouette of a figure briskly walking away, a house key, a bread knife, a telephone receiver resting off the hook, and a spinning phonographic turntable define the shifting functional elements in Meshes of the Afternoon from which the film’s evolving, malleable construct – the fragile and tenuously interconnected mesh of actual and perceived reality – is intriguingly (and ingenuously) mapped. A woman (Maya Deren) walking along the sidewalk near her home catches a momentary glimpse of a figure turning the corner, unlatches the front door and, after a cursory inspection of the empty household, proceeds upstairs to rest on an armchair situated by a front-view window. From this deceptively simple introductory premise, Maya Deren modulates the mise-en-scene of seemingly mundane objects to create overlapping, yet non-intersecting planes of existential reality, using permutations of recurring images – mirrored surfaces (the apparition’s face, polished metal spheres, a hand mirror), glass, duality and doppelgangers – to represent variably interlocking narrative fragments of observation, inference, deduction, and memory. Unfolding with the narrative discontinuity characteristic of nouvelle roman literature (creating an idiosyncratically dissociative filmic language that also characterizes Alain Resnais’ subsequent feature films, particularly Last Year at Marienbad and Je t’aime, je t’aime), the film posits a series of subtle structural, temporal, and logical mutations, creating a sublimely recursive, mind-bending meditation on the interaction between experience and memory, domestic banality and violence, imagination and causation.
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