Also, be sure to take a look at our video interview with Piñeiro here.
SPENCER: Commissioned for the 2010 edition of the Jeonju Digital Project, Matías Piñeiro’s Rosalinda is the first entry in the Argentine filmmaker’s ongoing project engaging with the work of William Shakespeare. What “plot” there is (the film is loose in structure, with a feeling of spontaneity) concerns a troupe of performers who have retreated to a wooded area along the Tigre river to rehearse a production of As You Like It. With each actor practicing a role in the play in addition to interacting as themselves amongst the group, character identities—much like the nearby tributary—seem to ambiguously ebb and flow while relationships become more and more fluid as the actors settle into a period of relaxation.
SAM: Clearly, Spencer, Rosalinda is the thematic cousin to Viola (2012)—even using several of the same cast members—which similarly aims its focus on a band of actors rehearsing Shakespeare while the division between performance and reality is slyly obscured. Considering As You Like It is widely known for bringing the “All the world’s a stage” monologue into existence, Piñeiro’s point is perhaps even more pronounced and identifiable in this film. The reputedly attractive titular character is played by Luisa, an actress whose character in the play is diametrically opposed to her actual personality. The first half of the film is an extended near-straight rehearsal of Shakespeare’s work, in which frequent collaborator Fernando Lockett’s fluid camerawork mirrors the itinerant bodies across a stage. Luisa is full of vitality as Rosalinda, but once out of character and in leisure, she slips into the background of the group; withdrawn, enveloped in a book, and out of step with the relationships developing around her. Once the film moves into this second half, Piñeiro uses her to demonstrate the ever-shifting identities of a performer on- and off-stage (worth noting, too, is that the director never denotes where the performance ends and “reality” begins). The highlight of the film for me—and a clear demonstration of the director’s gift for sensuality—is when Luisa, alone in a boat, floats through a channel concealed by weeping willows while Piñeiro crosscuts to each of the other actors making out around her. It’s in this playful group dynamic where Piñeiro’s approach is at its most appealing to me, even with my limited familiarity with the text.
SPENCER: That particular sequence is striking for me too, Sam, especially with how it conveys what you mentioned, in that Piñeiro subtly—but effectively—weaves evocative detail into the elliptical tapestry he’s created. I must say, though, that for me the film’s most affecting move is its final one, with a late-night hangout wherein the troupe plays a game of Mafia. Cards are dealt, identities shift once again, and the group dynamic is reformulated within a new context—albeit one that continues to perpetuate performance as a foremost concern. Not only is the scene a richly ambiguous apex for the mysterious set of circumstances that Piñeiro has placed Luisa in, but it is also a microcosm of everything that came before it: these people, their talents, and the way they craft a story through calibrated behavior; which is also to say it is itself a beautiful bit of theater, a vibrant vision of living in the World As A Stage, actively participating, with each their own role to play.