A summer house in the country, a group of friends rehearsing a play, and an intricate web of lies and deception – this is the premise of Matías Piñeiro’s second feature film They All Lie (Todos Mienten). The friends invent stories, sing songs, rehearse plays, plan a robbery and are involved in charades whose meanings remain a mystery to the viewer and players. Beginning with a young woman reciting a text of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s – a prominent Argentinian intellectual and the country’s seventh president – while other characters literally play with fire in the background, it is obvious that this movie has backstory. The young men and women drink, kiss, play games and paint, but they also gossip, cheat and lie to each other.
They All Lie fits perfectly with Piñeiro’s other finely tuned, delicate and sensitive films that concentrate on an artistic style rather than bold gestures. With prevalent interchanges between the actors, the movie is yet another of the director’s dialogue driven films that seem to orbit around groups of young women. The men in Piñeiro’s movies always seem to be of secondary importance, their motives and emotions succeeding those of the female characters.
When asked about the power play between the female and male characters in They All Lie, the director commented:
When I was writing Todos Mienten I drew a pyramid of power and a pyramid of sex. At the top of both pyramids were three women – they knew more than everybody else. (1)
Piñeiro’s characters all seem to be somewhat detached from the rest of society, and even his minor players are from the same age group. They always have an air of the bohemian life style floating around them, and they are drawn to each other like the members of a secret society, or sect.
In They All Lie, the character of Helena establishes herself as the leader of the pack, the most mysterious of the characters to whom all others are drawn. Her closest companion and confidant is Monica, with whose help she seems to be manipulating and controlling the other members of the group. The men in the film link each of the women to the queens in a deck of cards in an attempt to isolate them and understand their motives, but all the effort is in vain. No one can penetrate the entangled and emotionally charged world the women have spun around themselves – not even the viewer.
Piñeiro’s obsession with the seventh president of Argentina was already prevalent in The Stolen Man (El hombre robado, 2007), and again features heavily in They All Lie. Sarmiento’s work is read, recited and recorded, in fragmentary fashion, throughout the film. Piñeiro, often asked about his interest in the nineteenth century figure, says:
Sarmiento is very important in Argentina. He’s one of the founding fathers and a major intellectual. He wrote essays and hybrid texts that are very well written, better written than most literature of that time. He developed Argentina’s educational system; his portrait is in every classroom. So, at first he seems like a very solemn and boring figure, but when you start reading his writing in a non-academic way, you discover that he was almost a genius. But he was controversial, especially in the way he defined national identity. I’m less interested in him as a politician than as a writer, though. He was quite complex. (2)
They All Lie, although opening with the recital of a Sarmiento text, is not about political intrigue, but about sentimental complications, secret pacts and obscure emotional implications. Sarmiento’s works are reinvented in Piñeiro’s movies and take the shape of hypertexts that inspire the characters to intricate ploys.
Piñeiro has often been compared to the early Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, particularly his talk-heavy cinematic style and young, playful characters. His talkative films take place in a very artistic and cultured environment, where nothing much ever seems to happen. Like Rivette, Piñeiro is interested in games, but more in the pace and rhythm they force upon the players than the rules that control them. His cinematic style, although influenced by the French New Wave, does not follow any specific set of rules either. His movies flow in a volatile fashion, and do not offer any resolution or answers to problems. With the absence of distinct plots, the director leaves room for ensemble acting, cinematic staging and topographical narratives. They All Lie is a perfect example of a plotless, but reflective film, that doesn’t need to be wholly understood to be enjoyed.
They All Lie (Todos Mienten, 2009 Argentina 75 min)
Prod Co: Revolver Films, El Pampero Cine, Universidad del Cine Prod: Ivan Granovsky, Lionel Braverman, Pablo Chernov, Maria del Carmen Fernandez Montes Dir: Matías Piñeiro Scr: Matías Piñeiro Phot: Fernando Lockett Ed: Delfina Castagnino Sound: Daniela Ale, Emilio Iglesias
Cast: Romina Paula, María Villar, Julia Martínez Rubio, Pilar Gamboa, Julián Tello, Julián Larquier Tellarini, Esteban Bigliardi, Esteban Lamothe
1. Clinton Krute, “Matias Pinero,” BOMB 124 (September 2013), http://bombmagazine.org/article/7203/mat-as-pi-eiro