Puzzle Films: When Films Meet Games

Grace Hu

According to Piotr Woycicki, Post-cinema combines different art forms such as games, theater and DVDs which often emphasize non-linear narrative forms, audience interactivity, the witnessing of the process of production of cinematic images or an experience of aesthetics of flux. (2014, Pp15) Similarity, Warren Buckland used the term “puzzle film” to define a kind of film which is able to break the boundaries of the classical, unified and mimetic plot.(2009, Pp4) The non-linear narrative makes the story more complex and difficult to understand. In this way, we can say the puzzle film is a product of digital media period which combines the idea of games and film.

In modern cinema, IMAX and 3-D films enabled viewers to immerse into films. On the other hand, puzzle films provide audiences an opportunity to become a participator in another way. In puzzle films, they need to organize the images in their brain in order to make story understandable and logical. The process of watching Memento (2000) and Inception (2010) are like playing a jigsaw puzzle. Similarly, audiences are keen to explain David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001) with the dream theory of Sigmund Freud. Spectators are not only attracted by the story  but also able to find enjoyment in solving the puzzle.


Sequencing of plots in Memento. Jim Bizzocchi, 2005.

Story comprehension was now multidimensional: a novice could follow the basic plot, but she could enjoy it even more if she rummaged for micro-data in the film or outside it. (Bordwell, 2006, Pp59)In this way, audiences are likely to get enjoyment during the screening not only due to the story but also because such films create an engaging experience for them. In this way, the process of encoding-decoding in films is finished by filmmaker and audience.



Piotr Woycicki (2014), Post-Cinematic Theatre and Performance

Warren Buckland (2009), Puzzle films : complex storytelling in contemporary cinema

David Bordwell (2006), The way Hollywood tells it : story and style in modern movies

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