With the gung-ho surrealism of a Lynch film, and the insight of Phillip K. Dick, “Puzzlehead” is a modern “Frankenstein” tale, except filled with much more dread, suspense, and much more subtext. While “Frankenstein” set a precedent for machines out of control with a focus on a lonely man who created a monster for companionship, “Puzzlehead” instead focuses on the vanity of one genius, and the ultimate results of such vanity. He is god in his own world, a genius who created an exact replica of himself. Or as all scientists with a god complex, his creation is in his own image. “Puzzlehead” is an incredibly fascinating and engrossing exploration of creation, and creating something that takes on a life of its own. And what Bai does is take the Frankenstein concept and expands upon it making Walter’s creation in to a truly menacing monster, one that also looks impeccably like him.
“Puzzlehead” then becomes an allegory of a man who must basically do war with himself, a mirror image who may or may not be exactly like him. Then it becomes a cat and mouse psychological tug of war for the affections of a woman that they both love and both intend on being rid of the other. Much of “Puzzlehead” is never really afraid to be utterly odd, and Bai’s imagery is very reminiscent of the sheer surrealism of “Eraserhead”. Many times, “Puzzlehead” is also able to examine artificial life much better than many other big budget films mainly because of the fact that it’s so low-tech. And we get to experience the sadness and happiness of life within Puzzlehead’s mind thanks to his obsessive creator who installs a camera on his head which is the result of either curiosity or paranoia. And then we get a glimpse at how this man observes life, and observes every life, and observes human hardships.
But Bai takes this unique science fiction parable and then slowly fades the line of wonder and boundaries of man and robot and make them equals, and then it becomes a man facing himself. And eventually Puzzlehead begins to ponder on his own from the mechanics given to him and he thinks that perhaps he doesn’t need to listen to his creator after all. There are some very good performances here, especially from Galaida who can add both a sense of disturbing somberness, and rage within these characters. Puzzlehead is ultimately less a science fiction story of a man’s creation gone wildly out of control, and more of a metaphor for a man confronting himself, and learning some disturbing aspects about his being that he couldn’t fathom. His genius becomes his own worst enemy; of course isn’t that always the case with geniuses?