Jauja (2014)

April 5th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

JAUJA_2 copyDirector: Lisandro Alonso

Writers: Lisandro Alonso/Fabian Casas

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Ghita Norby, Viilbjork Mallin Agger, Adrian Fondari

108min   Argentina/Denmark and others | Danish with subtitles.

Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso has become synonymous with the ‘slow cinema’ movement. His previous works, though mysterious, have been anchored in realism but here he drifts into full-on fantasy, ‘creating an original imaginary world with a landscape of passion and inner truth’. And there is certainly something fantastic and otherworldly about JAUJA despite its elegant historical context. The film is also in Danish, Mortensen’s native language.

In 1882, Viggo Mortensen’s troubled Danish captain casts around wearily in a shifting seascape of Patagonia where he is leading an expedition to discover Jauja – an mythical Argentinian ‘El Dorado’. Dinesen is worried for the safety of his teenage daughter (Agger) amongst his troupe of randy South American soldiers and bewildered by the rumours of a savage local tribe of ‘Coconut Heads’ who are also looking for the ‘paradise’. Meanwhile his daughter has a mind of her own and abducts a young soldier who she later seduces in the long grass.  After a long and poetic introductory sequence where the camera is mostly fixed on the vast and wild panorama, Dinesen wanders off on horseback across the wilderness with its magical starry skies and incandescent daylight. He loses his horse after a lethal encounter with the tribe and then discovers a wise old woman (Norby) in a cave by a salty spring who introduces a shift in register to folklore and legend which transports us gradually back to Europe for a startling denouement. MT


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