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Lance Henriksen stars as Viggo Mortensen's difficult father in the latter's directing debut.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter.
Found By: Lindi

Thanks to Lindi for the find from The Hollywood Reporter.


"As intelligent and sensitive a directing debut as you'd expect, and a highlight of Henriksen's career."

Image Falling BTS.
© Sundance.
By John DeFore

Having quietly spent years augmenting his acting work with prodigious output in music, poetry and visual arts (not to mention founding a publishing house that champions other artists' work), Viggo Mortensen finally takes the director's chair in Falling, a masterful family drama taking a compassionate view of a father whose faults are impossible to ignore. Playing the son who must now care for him through bouts of dementia while absorbing his insults, Mortensen co-stars with Lance Henriksen, a beloved character actor who has almost certainly never had such a meaty part — with 250 roles on his IMDb page, one can't claim to have watched them all — and who undeniably rises to the occasion. Sundance attendees shouldn't read anything into programmers' placement of this artful film at the tail end of the schedule: This will be one of the fest's most assured directing debuts, and is sure to move viewers whether or not their own families contain a figure as problematic as Henriksen's Willis Petersen.

We see Willis first as a young man — played by Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs. McEnroe), who both looks like he could've been Mortensen's father and, as the film weaves through its then-and-now storytelling, captures how genuine paternal pride and love for his wife are poisoned by fundamental emotional flaws.

Bringing his wife Gwen (Hannah Gross) and newborn son home from the hospital, he stands in the kitchen, holds the baby still while Gwen fetches a clean diaper, and bends over to gently say, "I'm sorry I brought you into this world. To die."

Moving to the present, Willis has acknowledged (in an increasingly rare clear-headed moment) that he can no longer maintain the upstate New York farm where he lives alone, having chased two wives away. He's flying to California with his grown son John (we'll meet John's sister, played by Laura Linney, later), and is having a confused episode. Willis believes the plane is his old farmhouse; thinks Gwen is upstairs; and disturbs both passengers and crew. John does his best to calm him, and the film flashes back to one of the moments that cemented his sense of filial duty: Willis, out by a lake with the 4-year-old John (Grady McKenzie), patiently helping him shoot his first duck, then cheerfully allowing him to treat the dead bird like a pet until it's time to cook and eat it.

Mortensen (who also wrote the screenplay) moves back and forth like this throughout — both to gently illustrate Willis' failings as a husband and father, and to suggest how the old man is experiencing the world today. His confusion about facts is easy to understand, but Mortensen and editor Ronald Sanders use frequent glimpses of the outdoors to add dimension to the character's emotional life. There's nothing Malicky about Willis' connection to nature here, but his obvious affinity for its pleasures makes his inability to connect with humans who love him more poignant.

Willis is a homophobe whose son is gay. As he settles into the home John shares with his husband, Eric (Terry Chen), and daughter Monica (Gabby Velis), he relishes needling the two men, allowing himself to forget, say, that Eric's ancestry isn't Japanese. He speaks freely and loudly about sexuality, genially throwing slurs around in a museum or restaurant. He's also given to casually calling his ex-wives "whores." He sees betrayal everywhere; his fantasies of being cuckolded may have been self-fulfilling prophesies, and play out for him in an eternal present tense: Both women have died, but he rants as if they're quietly in the next room, cavorting with the mailman.

Despite his disregard for others' feelings, Willis is able to connect warmly with the couple's daughter, who overlooks his inappropriateness and calls him her friend. All these contradictions and more fit seamlessly into Henriksen's agile, engaging performance; few moviegoers who've enjoyed him over the years will be surprised, but many will resent that we, and he, have waited so long for a role like this.

Mortensen, who reportedly only agreed to act in his film to secure financing, makes John uncommon among the many adults we've watched cope with difficult parents in indie films. He's not self-righteous or comically exasperated, doesn't quietly complain to Eric about his plight, doesn't rise to the bait his father dangles in front of him. He has fought with him in the past, and grown. Now, he lets insults sail by and patiently adjusts plans to suit Willis' capriciousness. Clearly, this is because John is more decent than those of us who might cut our losses with a similar family member. But perhaps it's also because the past is as alive for him as for Willis: Maybe John is still the mop-headed kid who soaked up his father's approval when he aimed that rifle and shot, and whose father said there was no harm in letting him bathe that beautiful dead duck, dry it by the fire and keep it beside him in bed. Falling doesn't transform its emotional landscape into a simple question of rejection or forgiveness. It's comfortable knowing that meanness and affection can exist in the same person, and that tolerance, even when it only flows in one direction, benefits both giver and recipient.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
Production companies: Perceval Pictures, Scythia Films, Zephyr Films
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Viggo Mortensen, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross, Laura Linney
Director/screenwriter/composer: Viggo Mortensen
Producers: Viggo Mortensen, Daniel Bekerman, Chris Curling
Executive producers: Danielle Virtue, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Touche, Stephen Dailey, Peter Hampden, Norman Merry
Director of photography: Marcel Zyskind
Production designer: Carol Spier
Costume designer: Anne Dixon
Editor: Ronald Sanders
Casting director: Deirdre Bowen
Sales: Nick Shumaker, Jim Meenaghan, UTA
112 minutes

© The Hollywood Reporter. Images © Sundance.

‘Falling’ Film Review: Viggo Mortensen’s Directorial Debut Is a Dark Family Drama

Source: The Wrap

* * * SPOILERS * * *

Sundance 2020: The actor turned writer-director has made a beautifully controlled drama about age, memory and forgiveness.

Image Caitlin Cronenberg.
© Hanway Films.
By Steve Pond

If there's one word that comes to mind with Viggo Mortensen's directorial debut, "Falling," it's control.

"Falling," which was written and directed by the actor, poet, artist and musician who was last seen at Sundance in what would be an Oscar-nominated turn in "Captain Fantastic," has made a beautifully controlled drama about age, memory and forgiveness — and at its heart are two men, one trying desperately to be controlled in his own life and one who is anything but controlled.

The film, which had its first press and industry screening at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, is a restrained, quiet drama except when its characters explode. The filmmaking is subtle, but the emotions it explores are not.

Lance Henriksen, best known for his roles in the "Alien" movies and in "Millennium," plays Willis, an aging man who has spent his entire life being intolerant and intractable and is battling a dementia that simply adds levels of randomness and hysteria to his already difficult nature. Mortensen plays his son, John, who tries to put decades of bad memories behind him as he brings his father from an isolated New York farm to Los Angeles, where Willis can be close to the families of both of his children, John and Sarah (Laura Linney).

Willis and L.A. are not a good fit: "California is for c—suckers and flag-burners," he announces pointedly as he settles in uneasily to live with John, John's husband, Eric (Terry Chen), and their daughter, Monica (Gabby Velis). But John does what he can to ignore the taunts and homophobic insults, to be calm in the face of a man who has been provoking him for his entire life.

The film is intricately constructed, jumping back and forth in time and moving in and out of the fading memories of a man who was often as not a jerk with a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his hand. Henriksen finds occasional shades of likability in a man who is consumed by anger and uninterested in repairing the damage he caused in his family, but his frightening performance is one fashioned in darkness.

As a director, Mortensen doesn't make things easy for himself: We figure that a film like this is headed for some kind of redemption, but Willis seems completely irredeemable for much of the film. But Mortensen is too smart to go for an easy reconciliation, instead exploring shades of resignation and acceptance, particularly in the wake of an argument that can stand as a father/son version of the one in "Marriage Story" — primal and fearsome, it goes to places so dark that all the characters can do afterwards it attempt to crawl out of the wreckage.

At one point, John rails at his father that he has never, ever apologized for anything he's done, but as viewers we know that's not true: In the opening scene of the movie, Willis (played in flashbacks by Sverrir Gudnason) looks at his baby son and says, "I'm sorry I brought you into the world so you could die."
The film does not embrace that fatalism, but neither does it pretend that these people can ever really escape it. "Falling" is a finely drawn character drama, as you might expect from much of Mortensen's acting career, and a film that pays attention to small details that bring these people to life.

Mortensen wrote the film after his mother's funeral, when he began recalling incidents from his own childhood, then turned them into fictional scenes loosely inspired by his memories. The first card in the end credits reads "For Charles and Walter Mortensen," but it's not too difficult to figure out that this one is really for Viggo Mortensen.

© The Wrap. Images © Sundance.

The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Aragorn Mannerisms From The Book Viggo Mortensen Nails

Found By: Chrissie

On the eve of Bilbo's and Frodo's birthdays, this is a fun article. Thanks to Chrissie for the find from SreenRant.
© New Line Productions Inc.
By Kristy Ambrose

You can talk about practical special effects or amazing set locations, but in the end, it's all about casting that makes a good movie great. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy cast included some amazing choices that brought many beloved literary characters to life. Viggo Mortensen was relatively unknown with some impressive supporting roles under his belt in big-name pictures like Witness and Crimson Tide when Peter Jackson found him. The crucial factor was whether or not Viggo Mortensen could handle both a leading role and one of literature's most complex and beloved characters, Aragorn, the descendant of Isildur and heir to the throne of Gondor.

As if carrying the weight of Tolkien's masterpiece wasn't enough, and we have to give props to Mortensen for being such a great Aragorn. Not only was he a compelling leading man, but he also brought Tolkien's vision to life. Viggo made us all believe that the King had finally returned. Here are 10 times Viggo Mortensen takes his cues from the book and just crushes it on screen as Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

You can talk about practical special effects or amazing set locations, but in the end, it's all about casting that makes a good movie great. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy cast included some amazing choices that brought many beloved literary characters to life. Viggo Mortensen was relatively unknown with some impressive supporting roles under his belt in big-name pictures like Witness and Crimson Tide when Peter Jackson found him. The crucial factor was whether or not Viggo Mortensen could handle both a leading role and one of literature's most complex and beloved characters, Aragorn, the descendant of Isildur and heir to the throne of Gondor.

The King and the Wizard

© New Line Productions Inc.
This is a reference to an ancient legend that Tolkien would have known quite well. The tales of King Arthur and Merlin are ancient, already part of a rich oral tradition centuries before they were written down, and Tolkien was trying to recreate that relationship.

Aragorn wavers between defiant and unsure in the books, and it is often in council with Gandalf that he finds his way. Mortensen makes this a reality in the movies with some help from the equally talented Ian McKellen, who also had some success bringing Tolkien's authentic vision to life.

The Inn and the Pipe

© New Line Productions Inc.
The mysterious Ranger's opening scene is stellar because it's lifted from the book almost word for word. That includes the scene itself as well as the dialogue and characters. Mortensen channels the brooding and mysterious Strider with perfect authenticity, a thrill for those who know the book, and a faithful interpretation of the literary figure for those who don't.

The quiet table in the corner, the low-hanging hood, the pipe, and eyes that are constantly on the watch, are all part of Tolkien's authentic vision.

Ranger Life

© New Line Productions Inc.
In the book, we're told about Aragorn's exploits in the wilds in great detail. In the movies, Viggo has to find a way to show us instead. His clothing, weapons, in-depth knowledge of the wilds and his scruffy appearance give us some obvious clues to what he does when he's not sitting in an inn babysitting hobbits.

The costuming and design people can't have all the credit, however. Mortensen's portrays Strider as a tough, no-nonsense character with rough edges that may not suit his bloodline but reflect his real character and upbringing, which is just how Tolkien wrote it.

Big Words

© New Line Productions Inc.
In the book, Aragorn speaks with different levels of formality depending on who he's with but he's always articulate. It's a reflection of his awareness of protocol, and as the future king, he knows he'll be on the receiving end of some pretty heavy respect in the future. Mortensen is also excellent in this respect.

We aren't surprised when we find out that Strider is Aragon, Isildur's heir, just based on his use of language alone. Tolkien was one of the 20th century's greatest masters when it comes to language, whether he was writing with it or creating them, and he carefully wove this into one of the story's most prominent characters.

Arwen Evenstar

© New Line Productions Inc.
If you read the books, you knew Tolkien was using Arwen and Aragorn as a callback to the story of Bern and Luthien, as it's central to the origin story of the One Ring, The Silmarillion. He references the old story continuously, either in dialogue, poetry or breaks for exposition in the books, to make sure the audience understands that this isn't just another love story but an epic tale of devotion that had echoed through the ages.

Mortensen brings this to life in several scenes, in particular, the one where he sings the song of Beren and Luthien. In both the movie and the book, the tale is told with both longing and sorrow as well as deep affection.

Swordfighting and Battlecries

© New Line Productions Inc.
In the books, Aragorn invokes Elendil, an ancient hero, when he draws his sword against his enemies. In the scene where the Uruk-hai army attacks the fellowship at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring movie, Strider throws himself into the fray while echoing this battle cry.

Elendil was the father of Isildur, and legend has it that he and his family escaped the destruction of Numenor to found the Kingdom of Gondor. Aragorn isn't just calling on his ancestors but a whole history and culture that make Middle Earth realistic and immersive. Mortensen makes us believe it when he starts cutting through Uruk-hai while calling on his godlike ancestor.

Look Foul, Feel Fair

© New Line Productions Inc.
When we first hear the reasoning that Strider can be trusted because a servant of the enemy would have a more pleasing appearance but somehow be less likable, we understand the concept but the book doesn't provide a visual. It's no accident that Tolkien is invoking Shakespeare here, too, as the line "fair is foul and foul is fair" is right out of Macbeth.

Viggo manages to perfectly illustrate Frodo's quote with the right amount of mysterious tragedy, faint hope, and an exiled mountain man brooding through his beard. It's just as Tolkien intended it.

Staring Death in the Face

© New Line Productions Inc.
"I do not fear death."

A quote from the book that also made it into the film, this line initiates the descent into The Paths of the Dead. Aragorn declares it with courage and defiance, and Mortensen rises to the occasion in the same way when the cameras are rolling.

These are some of the creepiest and darkest scenes in the books, but Aragorn guides the reader through it. Mortensen does the same while we hang back with Gimli and Legolas, brave as we can be in the face of living death.

Farewell to Boromir

© New Line Productions Inc.
Well, it is Sean Bean, so we're not that surprised that his character dies. What did surprise us was how he perfectly embodied Boromir, one of the most famously conflicted characters in western literature. It's interesting that even though we all knew his fate it still ripped our hearts out, and Aragorn shared our sadness.

Despite their differences, Aragorn recognizes Bormir as his kinsman and subject at the end, and Mortensen perfectly expresses the same grief and regret along with a healthy dose of revenge in the movie. He's not just hunting Orcs for Merry and Pippin's sake.

The Arrival in Gondor

© New Line Productions Inc.
This was an important moment for Aragorn. He had lived in exile for his whole life, and these statues welcomed him home to Gondor, the land of his ancestors. In the books, these statues are intended to replicate the likenesses of Anarion and Elendil and were known as The Pillars of Kings.

The wonder and joy that Aragorn expresses when seeing them are deeply moving. A stunning set-piece helps him out here, but most of the credit for the gravity of this scene belongs to Viggo, who admires them as they float by and refers to the statues as "my kin."

© SCREENRANT. Images © New Line Productions Inc.

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Last edited: 31 May 2023 15:42:13