A terrifying social satire that delves into the current state of America, the human psyche and relationships.
Ahh, marriage. The joyous melding of two lives.
It sounds lovely, but judging by Sam Mizrahi-Powell’s short-but-effective horror film Pursuit Of The Jigsaw would look extremely disturbing, if we saw the physical reality.
Mizrahi-Powell calls his award winning micro-budget film “a horror experience for people with commitment issues”. Ben (Jamie Roy) is one month off marrying his fianceé Donna (Caitlin Thorburn) As the days tick down, his freedoms — those so far Donna-less parts of his life — fall away, as the two become more and more linked. He can’t even escape at work, where the focus is very much on being part of a team; and his co-worker is already suffering the shocking physical affects of a long marriage.
It’s never entirely clear when Pursuit Of A Jigsaw is set. There’s a definite 1950s vibe to it, and Ben smokes in the office; the colour palette, when we move from black and white, is an innocently gorgeous mix of pillar box red and ice cream pastels. Maybe though Mizrahi-Powell is just pointing out that the obvious binds we suffered in that decade are still here, just repackaged now as something to aspire to rather than to run from.
There’s an occasional internal monologue from Ben, which isn’t really necessary as the storytelling is already clear. At times the couple’s growing entwinement is almost like a choreographed dance, highlighting their deepening if (to Ben anyway) unwelcome bond. I’m not sure Ben is seeing it as a jigsaw, more a takeover, though their different-but-complementary toothbrushing styles point to some areas of their relationship where pieces are indeed slotting together rather than becoming the same.
Not for the first time when it comes to stories about feeling trapped, I’m reminded of Vivarium, Lorcan Finnegan’s Irish horror about the true dangers of suburbia, its broken spirits and inescapability. Ben’s day at the beach, his last private place away from the encroaching Donna — the curved horizon giving it a fake, Truman Show quality — becomes utterly chilling as his world starts to crush him.
Mizrahi-Powell wrote as well as directed, and he’s produced an impressively sinister short with some physical shudders along the way (he’s certainly wrung every cent from that micro-budget). The performances are very good, particularly Caitlin Thorburn as Donna. While she’s not really the villain of the piece (that would presumably be society itself, and possibly Ben for being a bit of a manchild) Thorburn manages to bring out Donna’s own vulnerabilities, and the injustice of being held responsible.
Pursuit Of A Jigsaw was made in 2020, but has now been released on YouTube horror platform Alter. You can watch the whole film — go on, it’s only 12 minutes — here: