In a summer house in the Argentinian country side, a group of friends meet to rehearse a play. Except this play is more than just a simple play. It’s an elaborate game of riddles of which the true author is unknown. It might be based on a set of letters from a prominent Argentinian author of the 19th century. But these players are anything but old, they are young, maybe from affluent backgrounds, and involved in what seems like a ritualistic mystery, that can only exist on film.
I reviewed Pineiro’s El Hombre Robado back in December, and although I didn’t show great enthusiasm, I was very intrigued by this Spanish take on the French New Wave cinema of Rivette and Rohmer.
Rivette uses theater as a metaphor in the cinema but his movies are not theatrical per say, they are cinematic because they turn out to be about something else, they are only using theater as a gateway to arrive there. Like Godard, Rivette is foremost a theoretician of the cinema, and his movies are experiments about stretching the limits of what a movie is, and specially what a movie character is. The personalities in his stories are fluid, they live in worlds different than what their environment dictates. Meaning is never fixed. We see fantasy, conspiracy, speculation. Our expectations get toyed with, we wonder, we’re surprised.
What Pineiro does here is Rivette from the inside, to say, from the other side of the mirror. His characters are involved in charades whose meaning we can only speculate about. This might be considered a deliberate obfuscation at first. But if you look closely, I don’t think anything is withheld. Part of the joy is in trying to tease out the meaning.
This is something so powerful, at the margins of cinema. It is intellectual, but not with dispassion. If you don’t make the mistake of taking it too literally, you will be rewarded.