DIR: Lisandro Alonso • WRI: Lisandro Alonso, Fabian Casas • PRO: Ilse Hughan, Andy Kleinman, Viggo Mortensen, Sylvie Pialat, Jaime Romandia, Helle Ulsteen • DOP: Jonathan Sela • ED: Gonzalo del Val, Natalia López • MUS: Viggo Mortensen • Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Ghita Nørby, Viilbjørk Malling Agger, Esteban Bigliardi
Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja is a slow burner, so much so that one would think he was rubbing a pair of withered leaves together in attempt to get any sort of a spark going. The most frustrating aspect of the film is the fact that there is so much potential there for it to be a great western thriller.
Shot beautifully by DoP Timo Salminen, we are introduced to a vast landscape of Patagonia, Argentina circa 1882. What could have been a picturesque backdrop for an exciting thriller becomes the foreground for an agonizingly, pretentious western deconstruction.
Viggo Mortensen plays Gunnar Dinesen, a Danish colonialist preparing to dispose of the natives of the region with a band of soldiers. Along with him for the ride is his fifteen-year-old daughter Ingeborg (Viibjork Malling Agger), who he attempts to protect from the leering men of his camp. This is all established for us in what seems like an eternity via lingering shots that may consist of a character simply standing still and staring into space. Deep right?
One night, Inge, doing exactly what I wanted to do during the screening, bails out of there! She is accompanied by one of the young soldiers, who she is romantically involved with.
At this point in time I said to myself, “Okay! Here we go. Call the cavalry, load the pistols and lets get to it” preparing myself for a Searcheresque pursuit, fuelled with complex imperialist issues and bloodshed. To my dismay I was presented with a pretty little slideshow of striking imagery, which lacked any form of kinetic energy, suspense or urgency. I felt as if I was gazing at a marvelous painting of a spaghetti western still, impatiently waiting for the rugged characters to be drawn in.
The narrative slugs along through a collection of mostly single shot scenes, where we simply watch Mortensen slowly, very slowly, walk out of the frame.
Dinesen walks, still walking, walking a bit more now….
Alas, we get the whammy on the head in the final act when we are taken out of the rough terrain of Patagonia, 1882 and dropped into present day, where a young girl discovers a small toy that was in Dinesen’s possession all these many years ago. By taking us through this time warp, Alonso is demonstrating how mother nature and her greatness surpasses the petty fabric of society and its people, remaining strong while the human condition is left blowing in the wind. An interesting thought to evoke, but it is executed poorly for two reasons:
1. I was confused by the director’s choice to present the film in 4:3 aspect ratio. By employing 4:3 it would surely confine the audience’s view and attention to the character on the screen, creating a sense of intimacy. Whereas it appears that Alonso is aiming to portray the insignificance of the characters within contrast to the vastness of the landscape, nature and in the final act, time. Surely, in order to depict the sheer awe of the vista for the audience he should have utilized the standard 2.39:1 ratio for widescreen or even better Ultra Panavision 2.75:1 for full effect. Since there is no real character study within Jauja, and by presenting it in 4:3 aspect ratio, I believe that the director’s goal has become obsolete.
2. It’s boring.
Jauja is released 10th April 2015