Algeria, 1954. Two very different men thrown together by a world in turmoil are forced to flee across the Atlas mountains. Daru, the reclusive teacher, has to escort Mohamed, a villager accused of murder.
John Halder, a German literature professor in the 1930s, is initially reluctant to accept the ideas of the Nazi Party. He is pulled in different emotional directions by his wife, mother, mistress and Jewish friend.
Vargas, a 54 year old man, gets out of jail in the prvince of Corrientes, Argentina. Once released, he wants to find his now adult daughter, who lives in a swampy and remote area. To get ... See full summary »
Jauja is a poetical, mesmerizing and refreshingly quiet film. The camera is content not to move unless necessary. Occasionally it follows a character, but more often than people are allowed to walk out of frame. The sound-picture is primarily bird twitter in a distance. To my joy, we could observe the rider approaching, and it was not so impatient to cut to the arrival.
This can of course only work if the visuals are strong enough to allow your eyes to rest on the details. It was easy be consumed by the moving images at hand, to stare, to slow down yourself and appreciate the beauty - while at the same time a suspense is created. This is a skill only certain masters, such as Tarkovsky and Melville, have mastered, and Lisandro Alonso and his cinematographer Timo Salminen (known for his work with Kaurismaki) managed to bring the same, rare eye. I was astonished.
Interestingly, though possibly a character flaw of my own, my mind could stop placing the film in the context of the Brazilian New Wave. The way the characters moved within the frame, and the atmosphere captured would have fit just as perfectly 45 years ago. The occasional moments of absurd but subdued humor would also have fit. This is in no way criticism or calling the piece unoriginal, but rather making the claim that Jauja is timeless.
Viggo Mortenson is at the center of the piece, he too subdued - but with powerful eyes. My mind drifting as it does I could not help to imagine Klaus Kinski, though Mortenson brings a far more mellow feeling. In his own way he drives the film, perhaps even to the same degree as the frame. His eyes and very being might haunt you. I still conjure up his posture in my mind even as I am writing this.
Co-written by poet Fabian Casas there are clearly more ambition in the events themselves, which I will not thoroughly discuss. The calmness, even under terror, makes it ripe for contemplation - and I believe last 20-30 minutes and particularly the ending itself will leave you with a lot to think about.
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