El Hombre Robado (2007) – Matías Piñeiro – Take Two


I know when I’m wrong. Not always, but I was wrong about Matias Pineiro’s debut, when I called it “lifeless”.  Yes, there are some problems here, and very apparent too. For example, the overall tone is flat. Some conversations just ring false, and unrehearsed. Some performances are tentative. But there is a guiding spirit, and it is dense.

This is foremost a writing experiment.The thread is self-reference. The story is about art, about a viewer’s relationship to art. Essentially, it is about itself. It is trying to map out its own workings. It seeks to reveal its structure, to display a symmetry. Its form overlaps with its content. It’s very beautiful, and balanced.

The main character works in a museum. Her and her boyfriend steal props from the theater depot to pawn off. The essential value of things is monetary.  They have a replacement scheme with “false” props they build themselves.  Everyone eats fruits, biting into the juice of things.This is their nourishment: life, and art.

On Love

Characters date actors, and musicians. There is a focus on performances: long shots of actresses relating anecdotes, and wondering about absent-minded boyfriends. Visiting a cemetery (which looks like a garden maze). Watching and listening. Reading books next to dead authors graves. Spying on friends, attempting to uncover hidden insights. Everyone is a student. One in particular, a coveted man with a leg handicap, studies botanics. They also share past lovers. Metaphors conflate. The library is also a bookstore, literally.

Have you heard of the systems novel? I think this is what is happening here. Except my own definition of the systems novel has to do with the novel as a system, like a particle system, which lays out its elements and attempts to trace the path to its own equilibrium. This story is about a kind of viewer, who is also an artist. She is in tune with the frameworks of life, and she needs to refer to them constantly, to observe the order (or chaos) and to derive its laws (if any). There is a scene where she quotes DF Sarmiento saying something similar “I question my own forces, ask my spirit the answer I search for, and when I think I got it! The impulse of my will freezes my every movement.” She then voices how she must photocopy this passage.

They walk past Jorge Luis Borges’ office inside the National Library (Buenos Aires).

“I only see what enters in the frame of my own life” – D.F. Sarmiento. This line is rehearsed several times by multiple actresses.

“Men should be what they appear to be or not appear at all.”

Doubt vs. certainty. The discovery of a subtle equilibrium. Group dynamics. Hidden alliances. Predestined couplings and separations.

Encourages different modes of reading (literally, like how one reads a book, but also how one “assembles” meaning).

What this film is about, ultimately, is how ART is a mirror, and works of art have a structure that temporarily reflects essential life structures: of reasoning, of emotion, of being. The film tries to be such a structure, and at the same time reveal its purpose, to create a beautiful asymmetry.

Much more than “cute girls reading books”.


Categories: female leads, Notes

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