Review of “Rompecabezas”, Argentine Winner of Berlin Film Festival

by Tracey Chandler, Contributing Blogger



Rompecabezas,”
(or jigsaw puzzle) starring Maria Onetto, Gabriel Goity and Arturo Goetz, is written and directed by Natalia Smirnoff and is yet another example of excellent Argentine film-making. Winner of the 2010 , the film is, quite simply, beautiful. The way in which the camera is operated from the very beginning helps to create a feeling of intimacy and the sound of the roasted chicken in the opening scene being split into wings, legs and breasts, creates a real sense of closeness between the audience and the characters; it builds tension and intrigue as well as familiarity and understanding at the same time. Indeed, the film’s signature theme tune is at the same time comic or playful, but slightly odd…slightly eerie.

The story centers on a middle-aged Argentine wife and mother, Maria, who begins to develop a fixation for completing jigsaw puzzles. She finds a jigsaw-puzzling partner, spends two afternoons every week practicing with him in secret, enters a competition and wins. However, the subtexts, subplots and significance of the jigsaw puzzle metaphor in general make the film so much more than what the simple narrative appears to let on to on the surface.

There are lots of moments of pure genius throughout regarding the script and the characterization too. The husband, for example, is particularly entertaining in terms of not really understanding how anyone can become so infatuated with jigsaw puzzles. Without a doubt, the director takes full advantage of the use of dramatic pause, complete with long, still camera shots full to the face to accentuate his bewilderment and thus heighten the comedy even further. However, beneath the humor of his character and his response to his wife’s new found venture, is also a deeply vulnerable and sensitive man who notices the differences in his wife’s behavior and fears that she is slowly pulling herself away from him, the family and everything that he knows. Indeed, the levels present in the characters are one of the best things about the film and is what gives it its truth.

Rompecabezas” also presents excellent opportunities to enjoy some self-mockery of Argentine behavior. For example, all the scenes with the family and their tiny reactions to each other’s behavior are just wonderfully familiar and very naturally played. Jokes about children becoming vegetarians are just the tip of the iceberg, for example, and leave the audience smiling warmly inside. It is a beautiful portrayal of “a day in the life of” this typical Argentine woman going through a kind of mid-life crisis or perhaps reaching an epiphany of some sorts. The ending is, as with many films of this type, left open. Life, in all its splendor, goes one.

A thorough recommendation to see this movie is given, but just in case an extra nudge is needed in order to swing the odds over a little further in the film’s favor, we’ve included the trailer above. Enjoy!

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