I've been following the work of Italian filmmaker Davide Melini for some time now. The former Assistant Director for Italian auteur Dario Argento has been honing his craft in several short films which immediately caught my attention because of their giallo overtones. Back in February, I told you about his latest film, The Sweet Hand of the White Rose, which Melini wrote, directed, and produced over the course of a year. So far, Melini has won several awards for White Rose including Best Cinematography at the Spanish festival, Cesur en Corto -- and it was selected for the finals of the Killer Film Festival which happens in November.
This time around, Melini has traded giallo for a supernatural thriller, while still maintaining the stylish and symbolic elements of the Italian genre. The film was shot in Spain and stars Carlos Bahos, Natasha Machuca, and Leocricia Sabán. When Mark (Bahos) and his girlfriend (Sabán) get into a heated argument he takes off in his car not realizing that he will soon make a mistake that will change his life forever.
Melini displays a masterful command of the camera in White Rose -- his shots prowl through the ethereal settings he's concocted in an almost disconnected way. The framing of his shots is exquisite as is the interplay of light and shadow. The camera is a stand in for the viewer, but not in a normal first-person perspective approach. This is more hazy, less tethered to reality. It's as if we're an astral projection spying on the characters as the events unfold around them. The soundtrack for the film marks a certain level of intensity right from the opening scene which takes place in a nightclub. That White Rose was made on a budget of only 2,000 Euros (about $2,700) is remarkable.
While the story was mostly engaging -- albeit a little predictable -- it was really difficult to get a feel for the depth of Melini's vision because of the English dubbing. Unfortunately I found it distracting and feel as though White Rose would benefit greatly from subtitles. With dubbing, you don't get to experience how an actor delivers the dialogue, and therefore end up losing half the performance. Melini's cast did a great job, but the narration and dubbing overshadowed their performances. At the end of the 16-minute short, Melini includes a dedication with a heavy-handed message. This transformed the film into something almost Shyamalan-esque. While I don't believe Melini had those intentions, it pushes the story into uncomfortable territory -- away from its gripping supernatural element, into something more confusing.
I have no doubt that Davide Melini's The Sweet Hand of the White Rose will do well as it continues along the festival circuit. As I am already so impressed with the director's output on a mere 2,000 Euros, I'm dying to know what Melini can do with a bigger budget and longer running time. His stylish and well-crafted short films are definitely a must-see, and White Rose is no exception.