All of the films have a sense of on-going-ness to them. They don’t happen in any specific time frame, but occur across a long period of time. We are given a sense that the story continues even beyond what we as viewers are shown, and that there was likely some story that occurred before the start of the films that we never get to see. The conflict is with more daily-life issues that are not a one off occurrence: mental illness, the loss of innocence, a limited worldview, an absent parent. These stories hold our attention because they call to some deeper part of ourselves who recognize these strife that often affect us in our real life. They are linear, but unpredictable, just like time and life itself. The two films I’ve chosen to look at more closely are ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’ and ‘160 Characters’, which both show off this snapshot realism, because those are the two that I felt I connected with on a deeper level.
‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, to me, shows a woman struggling with her mental illness. As I was watching the film, I saw the recurring flower as a symbol of life or the will to keep living; the figure in all black was her ‘monster’, which wore a mirror of her face because she is her own inner demon. The house was representative of the darker sides of her own mind, where she is constantly battling with noise and unstable ground and nonsensical chaos. Her hesitancy to enter, shown by her knocking and the slow opening of the door, is her trying to reject her darker thoughts, but inevitably she always returns again, no matter how many times she chases that dark figure down in an attempt to regain her will to live. This could also explain why the house is so plain in design, as those with extreme mental illness are known to lack observation skills, often missing smaller details of the world around them; and the phone that is off of its hook is symbolic of her either giving up on or feeling as if she cannot call for help. To me, the key to the house felt like an indicator of self-harm, as seen by the way it turns into the knife on and off, and by the fact that it always is the thing that lets her into this house of instability. I have a feeling that the record, which plays a somber tune, is reminiscent of the loud, negative thoughts in her head. When we are introduced to the man that seems to be her partner, it feels as though he has walked (confidently, I might add, no knocking at the door) into this space of her darker thoughts, bringing the life flower with him in an attempt to help her settle down with it. Her attacking him seems like it might be indicative of a scene where she lashes out at him as he tries to help her come to some level of peace with her own illness, and yet we do see him come back again. I believe that the image of the broken mirror is showing us that she eventually attacked her ‘monster’ and took her own life. The man comes to her one day and finds the life-flower on the ground outside, and goes in to find her dead in the house, having succumbed to the chaos and violence of her own mind. What we do not get to see, though, is his reaction, and what ensues after. This would likely be an entirely separate story of its own.
‘160 characters’ didn’t mean as much to me in terms of symbolism, as ‘Meshes in the Afternoon’ did, but rather it was a story of sad reality and emotion. As somebody who has a strained relationship with her own father and has seen her mother struggle with trying to get him to be active in her children’s lives, I felt the emotional impact of this film personally. Telling a story through text messages seems to be the producer’s way of adding an extra layer of distance between the characters– we see the mother and her child together several times throughout the film, but never once the father. He doesn’t have a face in this story, really driving home his absence in his son’s life. Due to his neglect as a parent, the narrator– the boy’s mother– likely struggled financially, relying on the help of friends and family. The few shots we have of the apartment they lived in indicate that it was simply a cheap place to live. This is especially driven home by the shot of the balcony, where we hear sirens echoing outside, possibly indicating that they are in a bad part of town. We also know that her son does not get his first mobile phone until he is well into his teens, which may be another nod to their more meager means of living. The man’s absence and sporadic involvement is very likely going to have an effect on Jim in the future as well, as he wonders who his father is (which his mother is preparing for) and why he didn’t stick around.