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By David Finkelstein | February 16, 2004

“Puppy Love” tells the story of love gone wrong, using a poetic montage of images, backed by John Toth’s evocative, moody electronic and acoustic music.

At first we see images of some very cute and playful puppies, while hearing the sound of children playing. I’m not a dog person, so I’m not sure what breed they are, but they seem to be the kind that are adorable when little, but intimidating when full grown. They already have a menacing edge; playfully biting the sleeves and hands of the man, they are playing with.
We also see a couple in love. They are not exactly young; perhaps the title refers to the innocent nature of their love. The puppy’s fight with each other, then the couple has a fight. The editing cuts in the film are filled with visual rhymes, puns and metaphors. For example, a shot of the claw of a steam shovel is followed by a similar shot of the lovers’ hands. A shot of the loving pair is followed by the image of a pear.

Things turn nasty. The man, once spurned, tries to harm his lover with a series of voodoo style rituals. A can full of nails, influenced by a magnetic force, flies onto a papier mache mask, where the nails rotate eerily. Later the mask is set on fire. The man tries to murder the puppies by tying them in a sack with some rocks and throwing them into the ocean. We then see the man with his face painfully wrapped in string. This is truly creepy stuff, and the use of magic within a poetic wordless film recalls some of the best films of Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger.

The film both begins and ends with the striking image of a wig being removed from a watermelon on top of a mirror. Hands holding a knife cut open the melon and extract the red fruit. Similarly, the film itself uses images and music to look into the mirror of an early love and pull out the raw, red feelings, which underlie the idyllic tryst.

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