An auteurist invention of the highest order, Matías Piñeiro’s ongoing “Shakespeare series” is the ideal platform to showcase the Argentinean director’s enticing and increasingly unique style. His previous features (Rosalinda, Viola, and The Princess of France—inspired by As You Like It, Twelfth Night, and Love’s Labour’s Lost, respectively) express a particular sensibility, rather than an overarching methodology, in deconstructing the Bard. Like Shakespeare, Piñeiro luxuriates in language and character interplay, but he also has the instincts of Jacques Rivette. Hermia and Helena, modeled on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a crisscross of time, space and location. Here, the director’s mesmeric use of dissolves and superimpositions cement the work as a shrewdly filmic entity, proving this increasingly fruitful series is focused on giving an expressive and sensual shape to the very process of adapting and experiencing Shakespeare’s plays.
The film stars Piñeiro mainstay Agustina Muñoz, who plays an Argentine artist embarking on a residency in New York City, where she’ll complete the translation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that she plans on staging back home. Her friend (Maria Villar) has just finished the same program, and she proves a suitable and somewhat knowing replacement for the attentions of the other fellows. Leaping between past and present, English and Spanish, Brooklyn and Buenos Aires, Piñeiro weaves an overlapping story of love and loss that diverts from the source material without ever fully abandoning it. Meandering as it is, Hermia and Helena has a deliberate pace unusual to Piñeiro, gradually working toward a climactic scene between the protagonist and an enigmatic figure from her past (played by indie filmmaker Dan Sallitt). This is easily Piñeiro’s most somber film to date, and though the broadening of his emotional landscape, as well as the sharpening of his narrative strategy, seems out of character, both represent a major step forward and signify even greater things to come.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.