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ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE

What is being? Is it just another form of acting? As in a Shakespeare play, everybody could be anybody in VIOLA.


VIOLA

In films like THE STOLEN MAN (2007), EVERYBODY LIES (2009), and ROSALINDA (2010), Matías Piñeiro shows us a capsule world. The Argentinian director always shapes his stories around a group of young middle-class women whose dilemma is either sentimental or existential. Making a living seems to be no problem; they spend their days chatting about art, politics, and philosophy. Daily life simply does not exist.

VIOLA (2012), screening in the Berlinale Forum, sports a more stylised take on these conventions. Meagre in plot yet rich in plotting, Piñeiro’s third feature calls attention to its narrative shape rather than to the story. The film begins as an all-women performance of various Shakespeare plays, namely “Twelfth Night” and “The Merchant of Venice.” Then, a plot within a plot takes shape. The same ensemble re-enact the same drama and dialogue in an off-stage discussion on love and relationships.

The film’s philosophical assaults on human identity are engaging. What is being? Is it just another form of acting? As in a Shakespeare play, everybody could be anybody in VIOLA. The “viola” of the title actually has nothing to do with the theatre. She’s just biking around the city, delivering bootleg copies of movies, until she meets one of the young women acting in the theatrical production. The woman asks Viola to be her replacement. In the second act of “Twelfth Night,” Viola is disguised as a man called Cesario, but in the play within the film (s)he is called Bassanio, a character from “The Merchant of Venice.”

Piñeiro uses close-ups effectively: characters’ faces move and shift across the frame, blurring the background, turning every scene in VIOLA into a stage open to myriad possibilities. There is one jaw-dropping scene near the end of the film, where several of the girls practice their lines in a van. The van door slides open, revealing the raging wind and rain outside; it’s not as sunny as it appeared through the windows a minute ago. Enter a new woman, a new dialogue, and a new plot.


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