03/19/15 10:00am
03/19/2015 10:00 AM |


The cinema of Lisandro Alonso has always privileged the journey over the destinationhis films tend to feature silent and solitary travellers traversing harsh and desolate landscapes, frequently to no avail. But with Jauja, his fifth and latest film, which opens in New York on Friday, the Argentine director ups the ante of his creative M.O. by obliterating the concept of finality altogether. Named for the town of ancient legend that no man has ever been able to reach, Juaja unfolds in a world removed from the pesky restrictions of time and space.

Casting a professional actor for the first time, Alonso uses a stoic Viggo Mortensen as Gunnar Dinesen, a Danish captain stationed in Patagonia at the end of the 19th century. There are a host of deprived and depraved men lusting after his his 15-year-old daughter Ingeborg  (Viilbjørk Malling Agger), and when she absconds with a young soldier in the middle of the night, Dinesen rides off into a strikingly hyperreal sunrise in desperate pursuit.

Jauja’s minimal dialogue makes it the chattiest film in Alonso’s oeuvre, following a script collaboration with the poet Fabián Casas, but the real alchemy here is the result of the director’s pairing with cinematographer Timo Salminen (best known for lensing Aki Kaurismäki’s work). The square frame, presented in the 1.33 Academy ratio, imposes an unyielding visual border onto an otherwise borderless world, so that movement itself—whether within or beyond the picture’s edges—becomes the film’s primary source of drama. Inspired by the sudden death of the filmmaker’s close friend in the Philippines, Jauja draws heavily on classic Western iconography to create an endlessly hypnotic work about the search for something that’s already long vanished.

We  spoke with the affable Lisandro Alonso from his home in Buenos Aires to talk about everything from the productivity of language barriers to the hidden philosophy of Mad Max 2.