REVIEW: The Puzzle [2008]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 5 minutes | Release Date: 2008 (Spain)
Studio: 73140323 Producciones Cinematográficas
Director(s): Davide Melini
Writer(s): Davide Melini

“You always spend my money on stupid things”

If you hadn’t read a synopsis of Davide Melini‘s short film The Puzzle, you may be confused as to what is happening onscreen. I myself was in the dark until the end credits explained the relationship between the two characters I had just watched come together. But even then the subject matter’s purpose remains slightly out of reach.

Opening on an older woman played by Cachito Noguera walking towards her bedroom, we become disoriented once she angrily ends a phone conversation dealing with the ill use of her money. The camera lingers on a bedside photo of her and a gentleman, but never officially explains their connection. I acknowledge that the YouTube presentation of the film may have muddled the age difference of the two—Alessandro Fornari rounds out the pair—but I began to imagine him a husband who had left, died, was at work, or about to come back home. Only when the credits labeled them mother and son did I look back and begin to understand the full scope.

Touching upon genre aspects of horror and the surreal, The Puzzle ends up being a psychological thriller with a very mean streak of violence and familial aggression. Noguera’s explosion on the phone alludes to the fact that she’s had this reaction in the past and her rather calm demeanor immediately after only confirms such suspicions. Almost sighing in relief in the fact that she’s finally resigned herself to cutting off her son’s financial support, the woman sits down for an evening at a jigsaw puzzle to let her mind preoccupy itself with cognitive reasoning. But as we’ll soon discover when the lights go out and the wind billows a curtain at an open window, there are more nefarious deeds at work.

Melini takes his film on an intriguing journey through an abstract fracture of the subconscious. And while I like this maneuver, there is never really a moment to delineate from dream and reality and I therefore couldn’t accept the surreal as nightmare and the viciously climactic act as fact. When we see the finished puzzle, it’s difficult to reason whether all that happened was an elaborate plan or the nightmarish warnings of Noguera’s manifested fear. Besides a ghostly, eerie pulsing tracking shot through the house in candlelight, we believe we’re rooted in our world for the duration. So, when the impossible occurs, it becomes a bit hard to stomach inside the framework set forth.

Perhaps I missed the transition; maybe the surreal moment of premonition is the brain manufacturing a reason for the truth of what’s about to happen. I guess it is up to you to create your own interpretation and accept the situation’s duality or not. Either way, I believe everyone can agree Melini has some unique ideas and a keen eye to put them on the screen. His desire for mystery and open-ended material may be too vague here, but I see this film as an exercise towards better things to come. A stronger voice to help us move through this nightmare married with his already striking visual style could have made this film great. The potential is definitely there and I look forward to seeing what Melini does next.

[1] Scenografia camera da letto
[2] Cachito Noguera
courtesy of

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