The latest Shakespeare-inspired film from Argentinian director Matías Piñeiro, and his first in English, Hermia & Helena takes a lively jaunt through intellectual and personal relationships. The plot follows Camila (Agustina Muñoz), a theater director who travels from Buenos Aires to New York for an artistic residency translating A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The act of creative translation is made pleasingly tactile: Dialogue from the play occasionally materializes onscreen. We see Camila tear pages from the play and tape them into a notebook — “This is part of my preparation,” she says, the book-ripping a clever metaphor for the infinite malleability of the Bard’s work. Piñeiro peppers Camila’s life with scenes opposite acquaintances and potential romantic interests, moving between them in dissolves. Sometimes, given the fleet running time, these relationships, such as one with former residency participant Danièle (Mati Diop), can feel inconsequential, and we could use more grounding in an interpersonal history. At the same time, Piñeiro treats some of the more potentially dramatic plot points with compelling understatement. Late in the film, before she goes to meet Horace, her long-absent father (played by New York indie filmmaker Dan Sallitt), Camila writes a series of questions for him in her notebook. The camera lingers on the page, creating an unspoken connection between her translation process and her poignant quest for personal knowledge. There are a few different potential films within Hermia & Helena — a Shakespeare adaptation, a tale of romantic relationships, a tale of family — but the totality proves a sunny and affable literary collage.
Hermia & Helena
Written and directed by Matías Piñeiro
Opens May 26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Metrograph
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 24, 2017