Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"Make me a willow cabin at your gate" Twelfth Night Act I, Scene V

During a conversation I had with Keira Knightley about her costumes in Anna Karenina, she compared her face veils to "a bird trapped in a cage." In Argentinean director Matías Piñeiro's re-veiled Viola, the cages seem open, and the young women are free to switch roles with the men or each other.

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Being disorientated is part of the game of art - from William Shakespeare to the present. A determined young woman (Elisa Carricajo), wrapped in a blanket with roses asks someone on the phone to repeat after her. Through black bars we get a glimpse of her in costume. She has black lace wrapped over her face. She is Olivia and we are witnessing a performance of Twelfth Night.

After a brief opening shot that locates what we are about to see in the streets of Buenos Aires, the camera moves in very closely to the faces of the group of women who will act and give advice to each other. The men, looking at the actresses intently, find themselves commented upon in the following scene. They will not be allowed to escape into the deceptively neutral position of cinema's male gaze and instead become objects of speculation themselves. Piñeiro's direction allows Fernando Lockett's camera to be rather nosy and quiet, exploring the women's hair and their skin.

Phones keep ringing in the distance, while the women talk about desire and how much it depends on the desire of the other. The high-spirited Cecilia as Viola (Agustina Muñoz), now in a pale plaid shirt, practices her scene seven times with Sabrina as Olivia. The one in which the shipwrecked girl who pretends to be a male servant pretends to know what she would do if she were her master and in love with Olivia.

The complexity of the seemingly spontaneous encounters reveals itself. In fact, Piñeiro's film could be played in a loop at the cinema which would allow you to rediscover the beginning after the end of what you will. "We've changed fair to beautiful" - in: "But, if you were the devil, you are fair."

Learning lines and switching roles are not so hard in Viola. A quick-witted Ruth (Romina Paula), in a car, tells a woman named Viola (María Villar), who delivers packages on her bicycle from a company called Metropolis for her boyfriend Javier (Esteban Bigliardi, a fresh faced Olivier Gourmet) that she can do the part. The packages she delivers are marked with a Fritz-Langian M, this time in blood red from a homemade potato stamp.

In some further Shakespearean mix, Cesario (how Viola calls herself as a man) is called Bassanio here, who is a character from The Merchant of Venice. Piñeiro has his actresses move seamlessly from Shakespeare's text to private discussions. Why Tuesday night is a good time to go to a certain place and if you should just keep writing to someone until they answer (a Lacanian variation on the letter arriving) are some of the issues the disarming cast of Viola deliberate.

A red ring in plentiful supply is exchanged, a plant sprayer used for distraction, how not to be a reactionary in a relationship suggested. Piñeiro never treats Shakespeare as a monument. Amity replaces awe. The result is an uncommon sliver of performative epiphanies, including a lovely atonal duet as epilogue.

Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2013
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The lines between fiction and reality blur for an all-female Shakespeare troupe.

Director: Matías Piñeiro

Starring: María Villar, Romina Paula, Agustina Muñoz, Elisa Carricajo, Esteban Bigliardi

Year: 2012

Runtime: 65 minutes

Country: Argentina

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