Meshes of the Afternoon

Meshes of the Afternoon presents a dark exploration of the self and the effects of patriarchy. Directed by Maya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon presents a surreal examination of the subconscious, undercutting Freud’s conception of the Oedipal complex and exposing the dangers which patriarchy poses to women. In this film, the unnamed female protagonist, who is played by Deren, appears in a dreamlike state and finds herself caught in a web of bizarre series of events in which the dream world spills over into reality.

The film’s narrative repeats a number of psychologically symbolic images which server to illustrate the inherent plight of women within marriage, suggesting that in becoming a wife, a woman is relegated to life of horrific repetition that stifles her sexuality and ultimately suffocates her; the home environment which usually signifies comfort and stability in mainstream cinema becomes a place of horror. Deren portrays a woman who is suffering because she is unable to find herself inside a man’s world; her dream, particularly the three Mayas, represents the shattered pieces of her self which cannot unify within the binding chain of a patriarchal society which is symbolized by the cloaked mirrored figure.

During the course of the dream, the protagonist seems to awake after standing up to mirrored figure, cracking its image and thus seemingly triumphing over the limitations of patriarchy. However, this is only a further part of the dream; the woman, seemingly realizing that established patriarchy inherent within marriage can never be defeated, kills herself only to open her eyes and see her husband standing over her. Thus, the film seems to imply that any form of rebellion within marriage will result in death.

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