Be Not Afraid of Greatness: Viola

07/03/2013 4:00 AM |

Directed by Matías Piñeiro

Argentine director Piñeiro has described his films as games that he invites the viewer to participate in. This beguiling, barely hour-long film fits the bill, but that abstract-sounding description can miss the seductive charge to its playfulness and the casual, experimental insights among its women. Somewhere in Buenos Aires, a few young actor-friends trade and test ideas about love, and rehearse scenes from Shakespeare for a pastiche production. Significantly for this cast of mostly women, a key passage is Act I, Scene v of Twelfth Night, when Viola visits Olivia (while dressed as Cesario on a mission from Orsino—this is Shakespeare). With DP Fernando Lockett shooting faces with a lucent sense of beauty, Piñeiro melds structural play, the quicksilver and static moments of theater repetitions, and that indelibly alive feeling of Shakespearean language, especially in twisting, flirtatious exchanges, each word a touch.

Viola might partly be called the rare theater movie that artfully gets at the pith of the experience rather than being a kind of self-nostalgic homage. But that’s just one facet, as Piñeiro dreamily spirals out the aura-like narrative with the journeys (literal and psychological) of a bike messenger who delivers bootleg DVDs, as played by Maria Villar, part of the director’s nimble stock company. Throughout, he likes to show his characters listening and watching, shuffling us into the moment in different ways. In one extraordinary sequence—a two-person off-site rehearsal of an increasingly charged scene—the postponement of the recital’s end leads to an electric, aching feeling of the fiction being created, always on the verge of disappearing or becoming sensual reality.

Piñeiro’s brief career is already one to watch (as the phrase goes), genuinely striking out in new directions that have been compared to Rohmer and Rivette but which feel novel (and certainly ask you to watch closely). In its theatrical run, Viola will be shown with the director’s shorter film, Rosalinda, which turns As You Like It into a circling and darting sylvan and riverside frolic—a suitable pairing for the games of Viola.

Opens July 12