(1943)5Lucia BozzolaThe film that spearheaded the post-World War II American avant-garde film movement, Maya Deren's 14-minute Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) took the traditional concern of Hollywood melodramas with female repression and transformed it into an enigmatic meditation on eroticism and death. Deren and husband Alexander Hammid worked without a script, played all the roles themselves, and built the film out of the repetition of a dream experienced by Deren's character. Most often described as a "trance film" or a "dream film," Meshes derives its power from increasingly charged imagery that turns ordinary household props into signs of sexual desire and self-annihilation, while discordant editing and double exposures literally fracture Deren into several selves. Poetic rather than narrative, Meshes of the Afternoon defies a fixed interpretation, as its evocative imagery collapses the boundaries between dream and reality, alluding to the complex effects of female entrapment and a desire for erotic, lethal release. Shot silent in 16 mm in Hollywood, Meshes of the Afternoon bridged the pre-war Surrealist avant-garde and the post-war European art cinema dreamscapes of such films as Last Year at Marienbad (1961), as well as the "personal" avant-garde films of Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger. The music soundtrack was added in 1959.