“Are you in a relationship or a routine?” That’s the central question poised to Viola (María Villar) toward the end of Matías Piñeiro’s pithy and poetic South American drama by the same name. Two actresses, apparent experts in the love affairs of Buenos Aires’ 20-somethings, fling this question at Viola after informing her that she’s too passive, that her and her boyfriend are now just acting at love, not “truly” living it.
So our Argentinean asks what she’s to do to regain her life, to salvage her relationship. The actresses answer, and thus form narrative knot the film’s very final scenes pull taut. It’s an elegant solution to a movie that’s pretty tricky to pin down for most of its 65 minutes.
Why is the film tricky? Because it’s so simple…and yet it’s not. A big chunk of the movie, for instance, is dedicated to Shakespeare, specifically a scene in Twelfth Night — the one in which the character Viola delivers her master’s love letter to Olivia. Over and over, the actresses rehearse this scene, flirtatiously whispering lovely lines to each other. Allegedly, they’re working on a play that mixes scenes from seven Shakespeare plays, but all we really see is this one scene, again and again. The repetition creates a sort of Shakespearean vortex: something that pulls these modern women — young, beautiful, artistic creatures who move easily in the webs of romance — into something classic.
Piñeiro, who wrote and directed the movie, seems to be dealing us a paradox. Life, his film suggests, is truly lived while consciously acting a role, while what’s known as real life often dissolves into a mindless act, reality set on autopilot. In other words, Piñeiro’s using the titan of English drama to say, “All the world’s a stage” — so it’s best to be an actor.