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'Meshes of the Afternoon' Enters the Realm of Sci-Fi

Many have interpreted Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon as a dream sequence, but what if the repetitive scenes we are given are not dreams but, a time loop.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

5 / 5
5 / 5

In Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), we are given a distorted timeline that plays on a loop with different variations of Maya Deren (“The Woman”). It feels like, Deren is piecing together a memory of her entering the house, and never coming out because each variant of Deren would fall asleep on the sofa, and the time loop is replayed. Many have interpreted, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon as a dream sequence, but what if the repetitive scenes we are given are not dreams, but a time loop? The unnamed woman’s psyche (played by Deren herself) is definitely at play in this film, we are given glimpses of our character’s memory being played over and over.

two women (played by Maya deren) sitting at the table
Two variants of Deren

Her memory is not reliable since there are different versions of them, most of the time her memory ends with her sleeping on the sofa, and we enter a time loop where we see Deren’s character once again performing the gestures she did in the opening scene, such as walking to her house, opening the door, looking at the unhung phone, and knife, etc. In the second half of the film, we see Deren’s character looking at another variant of herself, it’s almost like she’s seeing her past self who is also doing the same rituals as the previous Deren. The most interesting aspect of the film is seeing three versions of Deren sitting at a table, it’s like her mind is trying to fill out the blanks of her memory by having different versions of herself revisiting the same memory; hence, it feels like we’re watching a time-travel plot film.

A hand holding a key

A key appears on the table when one of the Deren’s picks it up, another key reappears for the next Deren, but the key given to the third Deren turns into a knife, the other Derens react in horror, which means Deren’s character is one step closer to gaining back her memory. In the last section of the film, we see a man waking up Deren while she’s sitting on the sofa; we then see, the man’s gestures such as opening the door, caressing Deren, and giving her a flower, are the same gestures that past Deren performed. It would seem that Deren’s memory is connected to the man, in the last scene we see the man enter inside the house, and sees a dead Deren on the sofa.

A hand holding a knife

As viewers, we question if the man was responsible for Deren’s death and that the time loops and different versions of Deren were a way of her reenacting the events leading to her death. Whether or not Meshes of the Afternoon is in the realm of Sci-Fi, Deren was ahead of her time, the concept of seeing different versions performing ritualistic gestures was not common at that time, in fact, films about traveling through time were more prevalent in the 60s, so it makes sense that people didn’t understand Deren’s vision. Meshes of the Afternoon still boggles our minds to this day, the overwhelming confusion over the meaning of this film is another reason why I would classify Meshes of the Afternoon as Cerebral Sci-Fi because there’s something provoking about Deren’s storytelling that makes us question every detail we see in the film.