Director: Lisandro Alonso
Year of Release: 2015
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Experiential by nature and daring in execution, Lisandro Alonso's Jauja is a case study in audience patience. Taking place in 19th-century Patagonia and following a Danish man named Gunnar Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen) who is checking land that will soon by overtaken by European settlers, Alonso's film never really focuses on the beginnings of a new civilization. Rather, it goes micro to zero in on the plight of Gunnar going in search of his 15-year-old daughter Ingeborg (Viilbjork Malling Agger), who has arouses the primal passions of two men; one a pervy old lieutenant, and the other a younger soldier whom Ingeborg seems to fancy. That's about all there is in terms of plot; but the skeletal narrative is firmly by design, as Alonso continuously draws your attention to the gorgeous wide-open vistas and harshness of nature. The characters are mostly backdrops to the stunning imagery, captured by cinematographer Timo Salminen in boxy Academy ratio, with shots held for what seems like an eternity. But the aims here are more than simply aesthetic; Alonso wants you to be lulled into this existential nightmare disguised as a minimal Western by getting lost in the landscape's beautiful savagery, much like Mortensen's character. The last half of Jauja gets almost hallucinatory in its free-form rule breaking, with time-lines collapsing and the line between reality and dream becoming blurred, but the film never loses sight of a stranger slowly traversing the all-encompassing landscape, threatening to swallow him whole.