YOF#19 | Jauja

DVD via Lovefilm

It is the 1880s, and Danish military Captain Gunnar Dinesen (Mortensen) has been sent to Patagonia to oversee an engineering construction. The site is near a dangerous, contested territory inhabited by local tribes. Set to the backdrop of this colonial tension, Gunnar’s 15-year-old daughter Ingeborg (Viilbjørk Malling Agger) elopes with a young officer. Dinesen abandons his work to try and track them down. Walking ensues.

Seriously, for the most part, the spine of the film is made of shots of Mortensen walking into it, stumbling over some rocks, and walking out of scene into the distance. Okay, that’s a little harsh. But it is fair to say that Jauja is a very deliberately paced film. However, there’s no denying that Jauja is beautifully shot. Presented in 4:3 and, at what seems to be, a lower resolution than contemporary features would use, this is a warm, retro-looking and starkly beautiful film.

Apparently, director and co-writer Lisandro Alonso is known for features with minimal dialogue, and Jauja certainly doesn’t buck that trend (though, it has been cited as his most ‘talkative’ film to date). A lot of the storytelling comes from physical acting, as well as how the shot/scene is framed.

Then there’s the final quarter of the film. Frustratingly, I cannot really go into why it’s all so bonkers and surreal. All I will say is, it begins when he starts following the stray dog. The few scenes that make up this part are actually quite good, and a bit more interesting and thought provoking, even if they stretch believability.

Then, there’s the final five minutes. It is even more surreal than the previous 15-20, and I think many will become emotionally uninvested in the end. I think I get where they are going with it, but I’d argue that this is film that doesn’t need another layer to pick apart.

TIme for the score… I’ve noticed a number of sites willing to forgive the over-deliberate pacing and the final few minutes and throw 4s at it. I don’t think I can be quite so generous, when the main feature itself is a bit of a slog to get through in the first place. I think, on a good and generous day, it is a [3].

p.s. Viggo is actually very good in it.


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