Friday, October 5, 2012

Maya Deren - Meshes of the Afternoon

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) is a short experimental film directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid.

The film seems to raise the question: Who is the narrator? Is it the photographer or film maker who narrates, is it the writer of the story who narrates? Are these – the photographer and the writer two different people or is it the same person? In the film, it seemed as if both writer and photographer had no choice but to follow the subject in her movement and in her action, leading them to follow without asking questions, as if in that pause or that moment of questioning they would lose trace of the subject completely. And, where was the subject taking them to? Was she the mirror image of the photographer herself, walking inside the mirror throughout the film?

The film seemed to point out that it is a fine line between reality and fiction, between the actual and the imagined. What is real one moment, can be imagined the next moment. What is outside of oneself may be real, and yet, what is within oneself may be more real than what one believes to be the imagined world. The hand takes the key and it leaves the key behind. Which action is real, which one is imagined? Is this a movement in thought or in reality?

The black and white imagery likens the image-making to the making of text, where words make sentences that you know will make sense if you read from the left to the right and yet the film encourages you to also read in the reverse, as if to assure you that the meaning of life lies not in its order but in its content, where content is what you imagine as much as what exists in front of you.

During the watching of the film, the presence of the music adds a great deal to the experience of it. The music was added years after the film was first made. Why was it necessary to add the music? Was it because people in this era would not watch a film that was a ‘silent film’? Is it because the story seemed incomplete and only music could bring that completeness to it? Who thought that the film was inadequate without music, could it be the response of the audience that began to influence the life of the film and to mould its character?

In some ways, it seemed as if what the film visually represented had belonged first to the textual realm before it came into the visual realm, as if it was text made with words and phrases that was trying to find release through being represented on film. For instance, there were parts of the film that showed the phone “off the hook” or the face “behind the veil” or the “key to a door”.  In other parts, it captured the idea of the “face is a blank mirror” and the knife “falling off the edge”.  Was this a story with multiple meanings, many interpretations with one purpose – to create an intense experience or was its purpose to re-establish the meaning of meaning?

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