Viggo Mortensen on Jauja

Mortensen plays a 19th century captain searching for his daughter, in what is referred to as ‘Patagonia’ in his latest big screen release. The great Dane (via Argentina and America) spoke to George Meixner about the new project.

The actor was ‘Man’ in The Road, was a man with a sword and a horse in the Lord of The Rings franchise, will star in Far From Man later this year and spends much of this film on horseback, with, yes, a sword. So what attracts this man to play these men and what makes him tick? The search for answers begins here. However, he probably posed more questions than he answered, such is the inquisitive nature of the… bloke.
Viggo was largely attracted to the film because of two of the main protagonists behind the camera. Of Lisandro Alonso, the director, he said that “I’d seen some of his movies before accepting the role and I thought that the ingredients of it, at least at the start – a father goes looking in Indian territory for his adolescent daughter – was a classic start to an adventure story.” Indeed his character is interminably scouting in this challenging movie. Shot in a 4:3 ratio with very static camerawork that accentuates the barren landscape it is not for the fainthearted, but definitely for the fascinated.

Of the input of cinematographer Timo Salminen he claimed “I knew it would have a special look and a very original treatment of the landscape and the people within it. So it just seemed like the kind of movie I’d go and see.”

Faced with a quotation from the director that “I wanted to pull you into a labyrinth that you couldn’t escape from”, Viggo replied that he didn’t really agree with it. Neither did he wholly endorse the questioner’s comparisons to the metaphors raised by Alonso’s earlier film Los Muertos.

In that film, the main character finds himself uncannily familiar with his surroundings despite a lengthy captivity in jail. He explained what he was drawn to: “I didn’t think of it that way. It’s not so much the landscape  or the events that happen – the landscape is the landscape, the things that happen that my character can’t explain or can’t find a logical answer to, the way the movie veers out of linear time, the changes in landscapes, the mystery of where his daughter’s gone,  some of the things he hears and sees“ were his primary interest.

It was revealed that he likes to wake up questioning the universe, something that you might empathise with as you leave the cinema post-Jauja. “I’m drawn to stories that challenge your way of thinking, that make you wake up in the middle of the night and question everything, your preconceived ideas about how life works, how you behave, what your attitudes are about, everything, and that’s something that I really enjoyed, just in reading the script but also as we were doing it, I thought that was an important thing and if he’s imprisoned it’s not by exterior things, it’s by his own preconceived notions.”