“Viola” is “Twelfth Night” in the 21st century

After I came out, I started to look back for clues that I had somehow missed in my life, like the fact I skipped my senior prom to go see the last show of a band with a hot female singer I just was a REALLY BIG FAN OF. One of those clues was how much I enjoyed women dressing in drag, like in Just One of the Guys and my favorite Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night is the story of Viola, who pretends to be a young man named Cesario when she is shipwrecked and needs to find a job and a place in a new country. The Duke takes a liking to “him” and decides Cesario should help him court Olivia. But Olivia ends up falling for Viola (as Cesario). There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the basic premise that clearly had my inner lesbian raging. (It’s worth mentioning that there is a film version starring Helena Bonham Carter and the 2006 Amanda Bynes film She’s the Man is also based on the play. Anne Hathaway starred in the Broadway revival in 2009.)

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Now Argentinian director Matías Piñeiro has adapted the play into a film called Viola, which Interview describes as “a sly and sensual reworking of Twelfth Night, set amongst a group of attractive 20something actors and lovers in contemporary Buenos Aires.”

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The film has two women playing different Violas. Augustina Muñoz is playing the part in a scene from Twelfth Night in the movie, while the real life Viola is introduced, played by Maria Villar. Matías says:

The scene from the play is a scene of seduction. For the film, I decided that I should develop a plot that is “under” the plot of the play. I had this idea that [the actresses] may or may not be trying to seduce each other for real, and to explore how this energy can be confused between the characters of the play and the characters of the film. I tried to fuse those two levels.

Viola is likely much like Twelfth Night, where there’s more subtext at play than any actual specifically Sapphic moments. But if it was good enough for me in high school, it’s good enough for me now.

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If you’re in New York, check out Viola playing at the the Film Society of Lincoln Center this week. In the meantime, keep an eye out for any productions of Twelfth Night near you.

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