Glen Whitehouse: Come on smart guy. Tell me it’s no big deal. I just. . .tell me. . .there’s a single one of you that’s worth one single hair on that woman’s gray head! Tell me that!
Glen Whitehouse: What?
Lena: Jesus is more powerful than any demon.
Glen Whitehouse: Oh, go fuck yourself!
Rolfe: Wade, just leave it.
Glen Whitehouse: Yeah, just listen to your little brother here. “Wade, just leave it.” Candy-asses. All of you. That’s what I’ve got for children. Jesus freaks and candy-asses!
Mrs. Barham: After every war, you know we always find out how unnecessary it was and after this one, I’m sure all the generals will write books about the blunders made by other generals and statesmen will publish their secret diaries and it’ll show beyond any shadow of doubt that war could easily have been avoided in the first place. And, the rest of us, of course, will be left with the job of bandaging the wounded and burying the dead.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison: I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a hell it is. It’s always the war widows who lead the Memorial Day parades.
Emily Barham: That was unkind, Charlie, and very rude.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison: We shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogeys. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers. The rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widow’s weeds like nuns, Mrs. Barham and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices. My brother died at Anzio.
Emily Barham: I didn’t know that, Charlie.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison: Yes. An everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud.
Mrs. Barham: You’re very hard on your mother. It seems a harmless enough pretense to me.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison: No, Mrs. Barham. No. You see, now my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September.
Mrs. Barham: Oh, Lord.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Edward Madison: Maybe ministers and generals blunder us into war, Mrs. Barham the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. I don’t think I was rude or unkind before. Do you, Mrs. Barham?
Mrs. Barham: No.
I’ve been wanting to write about Maya Deren for a while now. She’s an interesting figure in the 1940s and 1950s American experimental and avant-garde film scene. She’s a filmmaker I’m sure has inspired lots of contemporary psychological filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Deren is interesting for a couple of reasons, but one of the things I love the most about her story is how “American Dream” it is. She immigrated with her parents in the 1920s, attended various schools (including NYU and Smith), where she received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in literature (in the 1930s!), then became part of the émigré art scene in Greenwich Village before eventually moving to Los Angeles. There really ought to be a biopic about her already! Meshes of the Afternoon is a personal film in many senses; it was filmed on a 16mm camera Deren bought with some inheritance after her father died and it tells of female subjectivity, loneliness and confusion. Deren was a woman who embraced her artistic and political freedoms in a time when this was still frowned upon by much of society (all the 1930s were much better for women than the post-war 1950s). There’s some debate as to whether this project was equally created by wife and husband, or if more of the credit should go to her husband Alexander Hammid. Filmmaker and friend Stan Brakhage claims the film was mostly Hammid’s creation and that part of why their marriage fell apart was because Deren got most of the credit. I find that interesting because if it is true, it really speaks to fragility of the male (and artist’s) ego. But I also doubt it’s as much Hammid’s creation as Brakhage claims, partially due to how similar it is to the rest of Deren’s solo work, and partially because the ideas embedded in the film feel so intrinsically female. I’m not going to dissect all the symbolism in Meshes of the Afternoon, but rather embed the film below and let you watch it for yourself (it’s about 13 minutes). If you enjoy it, you can find most (if not all) of Deren’s work on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
After you watch the film (srsly, it’s 13 minutes so you have no excuse), let me know what you think!