Friday, 18 January 2013

Two Short Films by Davide Melini - The Puzzle (2008) and The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

Davide Melini is a talented upcoming Italian filmmaker based in Málaga, Spain, who has worked in Rome as an assistant director on many features including working with Italy’s much lauded auteur Dario Argento on the final part of his Three Mother’s Trilogy - ‘Mother of Tears: The Third Mother’ (2007). Backed with his own financing Melini has written and directed four short films (two Italian and two Spanish) and he is at this moment working on a fifth, a homage to the giallo genre entitled Deep Shock. The latter two completed Spanish productions the experimental ‘The Puzzle’ and the supernatural themed ‘The Sweet Hand of the White Rose’ are in review here. 

The Puzzle (2008)

‘The Puzzle’ was recently picked up to be shown on the upcoming TV horror anthology series of independent shorts called ‘The Dark Cinema’ hosted by indie horror hero the immensely talented character actor Bill Oberst Jr.. Officially selected in competition at many European film festivals in the year of its release in 2008 and in the following years of ’09, ’11 and ’12 it was also broadcast twice on Italian TV in 2009 and 2012, once on Spanish TV in 2010 and aired one time on American TV in 2012.

About 5-minutes long, the film depicts a night in the home of a woman who refuses to give money yet again, to her harassing no good son when she receives a phone call from him in the only dialogue here. After angrily hanging up on him, the bedside phone begins to ring again and the camera slowly zooms in on a framed photograph of the two of them next to it. Cutting to the next scene, she has already begun work on piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. We are then taken into the kitchen as she prepares a hot cup of beverage. The camera then goes to a tracking shot as it moves outside of the kitchen and into the living room moving towards the dining table where she was sitting putting together “the puzzle”. As the camera is moving along it blurs out of focus so we cannot make out what the picture of the jigsaw is as it arrives at the table. When the camera reaches its destination, it pans to the right to the before closed and now open window as the wind blows the net curtains in and out of the room. As the camera fades into an exterior long shot of the back of the house where the living room is situated the lights abruptly go out.

I will leave my description of this short film there to avoid spoilers as it can be seen below. It is a passable effort that shows off the behind the camera skills of its talented writer and director using a minimal narrative structure yet getting the most out of its suspenseful premise by employing some nice stylistic touches. The title is a double entendre as the woman is of course working out a “puzzle” but “the puzzle” for you is to work out the short’s meaning. There are no answers to be found on screen as it is left open for interpretation. I am seeing that “the puzzle” the woman is putting together with the jigsaw represents a piecing together of the woman’s own “puzzle” of her fate that she cannot see coming until it is too late as each piece she fits is part of her life coming undone. This is just how I am interpreting it and you can make up your own minds by watching for yourselves.

All that can be said about ‘The Puzzle’ is that it is nothing special but it is worth a watch to see the promising potential of its filmmaker and it at least gives the viewer something to think about. Davide Melini fairs much better with his next effort showing that he is progressing solidly as both a writer and a director.

** out of ****

The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

The gorgeously titled ‘The Sweet Hand of the White Rose’ is an equally gorgeous visual treat oozing atmosphere that encapsulates a sad tale of life and death. Due to its title, genre fans might be forgiven for mistaking this for possibly being a gialli mystery thriller but it is anything but with a theme of the supernatural. Like Melini’s previous work ‘The Puzzle’, this is a minimally dialogued affair and it has an interesting well-paced narrative progression with more characters portrayed by amateur although capable performances over a 16-minute runtime. It is not left up to interpretation as to its meaning as the aforementioned short but is instead a cautionary tale on the value of life although it does contain a twist ending.

At first, the narrative is seen through the perspectives of two different characters as a man and a little girl’s lives cross paths due to a horrific road accident. There are monologues from each of them as they narrate the events of each of their situations that leads up to the tragic incident. After both accounts are told and the character’s intersect with each other their narrations end as we see the characters now existing with each other in the realms of the supernatural with the rest of the story now being told through images.

There are some truly beautiful moments sprinkled throughout from the setting of the Malaga landscapes in the opening of the piece to the sorrowful depictions of the man’s guilt and want of redemption and the little girl in the afterlife that leads to the short’s twist ending. Here in this second half, the atmosphere is haunting and the imagery poignant and the special make-up effects of the little girl’s ghost is creepily convincing. The musical score throughout the proceedings aids very effectively the emotional pull.

Like Melini’s previous work, ‘The Sweet Hand of the White Rose’ has been shown at numerous European film festivals from 2010 to 2012 and has won awards too. It has also been shown on TV once in Spain in 2010 and twice in Italy in 2011 and 2012. It is a more personal and mature work by its filmmaker and a strong example of Davide Melini’s growing skills as a writer and director and is a filmmaker to keep an eye on in a blossoming career. You can watch this short film here…

*** out of ****

Keep up to date with the progress of melini's upcoming giallo short Deep Shock by liking its official Facebook page.

Dave J. Wilson

©2013 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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