The most versatile, subtle and innovative film by Argentinian Ricardo Alonso, Jauja collected splendid reviews in the international and professional press, and hopefully will push the director to the Cannes heights with his next film in Competition.
It will be a pleasure for all lovers of Latino-American magic realism, of the slow, captivating stories and pictures that only explode in the viewer’s head later on. By watching the film, you appreciate the poetry and perfection of the filmmaker’s journey from tough historical thriller to the subjective universe of a sensible young person. But the real impact of Alonso’s film comes the next day, when you can’t get rid of the beauty of the Patagonian landscape, the sharp colours of uniforms, of the feeling of danger behind bushes, and of the scent of blood. Alonso works in elliptical narration, never showing dramatic milestones and leaving all to the viewer’s imagination.
Jauja starts as an engrossing but conventional story: during the invasion of governmental army to Patagonia around 1870, (with the goal to ethnically clean the territory), the Danish engineer (Viggo Mortensen) is hired as a specialist of eventual geological research. He has an adolescent daughter, who becomes an object of interest to the local officers. The girl falls in love with youngest one and together they leave the camp.
Her father, obsessed by fear and jealousy, leaves the camp to search for the couple and to kill his daughter’s lover. We know the surrounding magical landscape is controlled by wild and dangerous bandits.
From this point Alonso completely changes the direction of his narrative. We are no more in a genre structure, we enter deeper and deeper inside of the head of the hero — but who is this hero? It is less and less the jealous father, more and more the daughter. Maybe we are just witnesses to someone’s dream … But who is dreaming?
Since David Lynch and the early Nineties, we have not seen such a strong vision caught on the edge of dream and reality. But Alonso is also more sophisticated, more poetic and tender and definitely less shocking than Lynch.
Good for him and for an educated art-house audience!
Edited by Richard Mowe
© FIPRESCI 2014