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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Found By: Iolanthe

As we’ve been seeing this week with Chrissie’s ‘On This Day’ posts, this is the 5th anniversary of Jauja’s Magical Mystery Tour through Denmark. Viggo, Lisandro Alonso and Ghita Nørby went to enormous lengths to bring this film to audiences and although it never played to massive houses outside of Festivals, critics around the world who saw it were mesmerised by Alonso’s work and Viggo’s performance. So this week we have a reminder of what an truly extraordinary piece of cinema it is. Maybe, with all the weirdness of lockdown when normal life has been suspended, it’s time to watch it again?

Jauja… is a beautiful, mystical, intoxicatingly wonderful film...

Paddy Mulholland
Awards Daily
20 October 2014

Anchored by a rumpled, naturalistic performance by the great Viggo Mortensen…

Angelo Muredda
5 September 2014

The film is framed in a 4:3 aspect ratio and, most strikingly, sports rounded corners on its images. That relatively constricted vision (somehow the rounded corners highlight how quickly the world slips out of view as the camera pans) is offset by the incredible depth that Alonso and masterful cinematographer Timo Salminen produce in their shots. In the open desert, fading gradually from sharp clarity in the foreground to the soft blur of the horizon, the images seem to connote infinity...

...The film is its own journey, and there's seemingly no end to how far you might travel with it.

Tomas Hachard
19 March 2015

…the tight parameters of these frames encourage us to imagine an infinity outside their edges. Rich colors suggest both dream and the artifice of Hollywood Westerns: deep blue clouds on a sky fading to yellow at its base resemble a painted backdrop; pools of golden firelight in a night shot are manifestly lit, as if on a studio set. Visual leitmotifs suggest threads through the maze: pools and streams whose mirrored surfaces suggest doors into other worlds, a tin soldier that turns up in unexpected places...

...the real treasure, the mythical object for which the film sets out, is finally nothing more than the very film that it ends up being.

Jonathan Romney
Film Comment
19 March 2015
A shot of Dinesen staring at himself in mote-speckled water rhymes with a later shot of the captain stretched out on top of a mountain staring at the stars — one man contemplating both himself and his place in the cosmos...

Vadim Rizov
Filmmaker Magazine
20 March 2015

Mortensen, perhaps the only actor alive who could play Sigmund Freud, William Burroughs and a Middle-earth king, speaks both Danish and Spanish in the film, though he spends most of his time on screen in silence. One of the joys of cinema is the chance to watch great actors just stay still and think.

Uday Bhatia
Live Mint
11 September 2015

Sweating in layers of bulky long johns, and sporting a droopy, weeping mustache, Mortensen carries the film, his human grumbling and surprised, rageful violence conveying the sense of a nervous, basically average man caught on a journey into his own heart of darkness. Increasingly, as the other characters drop away, Mortensen has nothing to play against but nature and himself.

Mark Asch
Brooklyn Magazine
7 October 2014

Alonso’s previous features have been notoriously—and, for many viewers, off-puttingly—slow and cryptic. Mortensen injects the director’s esoteric, anti-psychological themes with a psychological reality that makes them all the more tantalizing.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
AV Club
19 March 2015

Viggo Mortensen, as mysterious here as the Sphinx.

Jauja: Viggo Mortensen Lost in Patagonia
By Eric Vernay - translated by Donna Marie
Premiere (France)
19 May 2014

Dinesen, with his European manners, books and scientific principles, is at once noble and ridiculous, a civilized man adrift in the wilderness and the embodiment of blind, imperial arrogance. A doting father and a bit of a snob, he seems to absorb the wildness of his surroundings, becoming desperate and almost feral as he wanders the wasteland howling his daughter’s name.

O. Scott
New York Times
19 March 2015

This is a powerhouse performance from Mortensen, as he infuses Dineson with complexity, personality, even a dab of mordant humor – an impressive feat given that the role is largely silent.

As he progresses through this limbo-like landscape we watch him gradually transforming, Mortenson’s weathered features becoming akin to the rocks surrounding him. As he emerges from within dark cracks, kneels to sip dripping streams or dozes underneath the stars, he melts into the environment, the boundaries of Dineson’s self slowly eroding into the Patagonian dirt.

David James
6 April 2015

Our attention is more deliberately focused on Mortensen's place in the landscape, and in the way his soul inhabits his body, clad in a stiff soldier's uniform. Now and again, we do get to look squarely at his face — Alonso wouldn't be so cruel as to deprive us of that entirely. But by holding the camera back, he intensifies both Mortensen's performance and the visual potency of the movie around him. There's so much to take in here that at times I almost felt as if I were absorbing it through my skin.

Stephanie Zacharek
Village Voice
17 March 2015

This lack of solicitude for the audience—the real time, the featureless stretches of land and sky, the incomplete knowledge of events—is a perfect storm of cinematic minimalism. Rather than consume the movie as if it’s served to us pre-chewed, we lean in, hold our breath, suspend judgment. We’re as lost as Mortensen’s protagonist, and we feel the weight of it acutely. The semi-flat steppes all look the same in every direction, and the minutes tick by, until eventually night falls and we lose our bearings completely.

Michael Atkinson
In These Times
18 March 2015

I’ve now seen Lisandro Alonso’s captivating, unearthly Jauja four times, and I don’t think I’m any closer to telling you what it’s all about; the more I see it, the more puzzled I am. Alonso likes to traffic in the oblique — in the blank, mysterious spaces between the ostensible realities onscreen. That sounds like a lot of hooey, but watching Jauja, which is certainly one of the best films of the year, I never once doubted that I was in the hands of a master filmmaker. For all its seeming austerity, the film pulls you along with incredible force — not unlike the way it pulls its lonely protagonist, played by Viggo Mortensen, along on his quixotic, dreamlike journey....

Jauja is a rapturously bizarre movie that resists knowledge. That’s its secret, intoxicating power; the less you understand, the more mesmerized you are.

Bilge Ebiri
21 March 2015

You will find all previous Quotables here.

© Viggo-Works/Iolanthe. Images © 4L Productions/Soda Pictures.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo

One thing I share with Viggo is lifelong notebook keeping – not a diary, but books full of bits and pieces that interest me, quotes I’ve found, notes on things I’ve read, nature notes, experiences, things I’ve learned. It goes on and on. There is a whole shelf full. With loads of lockdown time I’ve been reading right through them for the first time and wondering – is Viggo doing the same?

© Focus Features

Before becoming an actor, he was a published poet, and he still carries a notebook wherever he goes 'just in case a moment presents itself to be stolen.'

The Appealingly Weird World of Viggo Mortensen
By Amy Wallace
March 2006

Viggo extracts a big moleskin notebook from his backpack, like a naturalist's notebook, a logbook, in which he notes down his thoughts and everything that passes through his mind with a big, tangled handwriting like the rigging of a schooner.

River Mortensen
By Ramón Raboiras - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
September 2012

The backpack also contained a couple of journals, two screenplays, my passport, and two half-read books. The hardest losses were the stories and poems in the notebooks. I had been looking forward, in particular, to reviewing and fine-tuning hundreds of pages of, for me, uncharacteristically long and unguarded poetry that had been written during a series of very quiet nights spent in the Sahara Desert in late 2002. During that time, for various reasons, I had begun writing extended pieces using a lot of abstract imagery and fragmented recollections from my childhood, combined with the rush of sensory impressions I was receiving while living and working in Morocco. The thick white pages of the notebooks from that time were grimy, stained red from the dust near Ouarzazate, yellow from Erfoud and Merzouga, brown and gray from my hands and the ashes of campfires and cigarettes, dogeared, black with grease. They held sandstorms, camel gargles, vultures, Arabic songs, calls to prayer, prayer rugs, tea, coffee, tent flaps. They reeked of diesel, were alive with flies, fossils, heat waves, goats, soldiers, scorpions, unseen women, donkeys, date palms, doves, hawks, vipers, new or decaying gardens, graveyards, city walls, mosques, stables, wells, fortresses, and schools. This was the start of a long-overdue cataloging of buried memories of plants and their names, horses, car accidents, lightning, pet lizards, parts of arguments between my parents, ifinesses, sheep; of fish caught, lost, released, cleaned, cooked, spied in rivers, ponds, lakes, eaten, rotting, struggling, dying, or dead. In those notebooks could be found faces of teachers I've had, of policemen, children, and old people suffering, giggling, sleeping, or otherwise lingering in emergency rooms, bus stations, on street corners, walking or standing on traces of roads or tracks through harsh deserts, prairies, icescapes, or urban wastelands. Here were all the toy soldiers, ineffective windshield wipers, first tastes of chocolate, wine, asparagus, venison, trout, chalk, ants, a Big Mac, dirt, dandelion stem, unsweetened yerba maté, duck, beer, snow, blood...

Viggo Mortensen on his lost notebooks
Introduction to Best American Non-Required Reading
Houghton Mifflin, 2004

Patches of recorded feeling vanished, irretrievable. There is no point in trying to remember and rebuild the word houses, word hills, word dams, or word skeletons like some sort of archeology project. There may be pieces I recall or inadvertently retell, but every word will be new, will go somewhere, will die no matter what I might do to tame or hold it.

Viggo Mortensen on his lost notebooks
Introduction to Best American Non-Required Reading
Houghton Mifflin, 2004

We meet at a coffee house in Santa Monica, where he's already upstairs with a glass of iced coffee and a notebook. Beside him rests a box, overflowing with sheets of rumpled paper and picture frames, much like one would find in an attic, or on the neglected shelves of Christmas decorations (his manager had asked me if he could make a contribution to the magazine, to which I gave an unqualified "yes").

"I don't know what you're looking for," he says, "but I brought a few things to show you."

Viggo's Box
By Craig Clevenger
Fond Affexxions #5, Winter Thaw 1995

And Viggo Mortensen pulls a notebook from his bag. The poets look at it. Because poets always look. And they see. At the table are Fabián Casas, Damian Ríos and Gabriela Bejerman, three of the 22 Argentine poets in the Anthology of New Argentine Poetry, the brand new book from Perceval Press, Viggo Mortensen's publishing house... "There it is; it's called 'Matinee'," he says. And he reads it.

Viggo Mortensen: "Writing and acting are like being a kid again"
Eduardo Bejuk - translated by Zooey
25 August 2009

Never without his camera, he snapped away at branches, sky, ice and snow while he talked, stopping only to ask a question, write something in his journal or point out deer tracks and places where beavers had gnawed through trees. Nearly every step seemed to elicit a memory, of some youthful mischief with a friend, a favored fishing or skiing spot from years ago, a conversation with a former neighbor.

Viggo Mortensen ('80) Remembers: A Walk Down Memory Lane (Literally) with the Photographer, Poet and Actor
Macreena A. Doyle
St. Lawrence University, Canton NY February 2003

He'd visited the Freud museum in Hampstead before, but for the purposes of our interview we were allowed behind the velvet ropes and into Freud's study, right next to the famous couch. Viggo was clearly unsettled by such close contact with Freud's personal artefacts, and affected some shivers of recognition as he pored over Freud's notebook which sits on his desk, a pair of fold-up pince-nez placed neatly beside it.

Viggo's Freudian Slip
By Jason Solomons
The Observer
5 February 2012

I spent a lot of time and effort in the following weeks scouring my part of town, looking through trash cans and alleyways, offering no-questions-asked rewards, doing anything I could think of to find what was irreplaceable for me and probably completely useless to whoever had stolen it. Finally, I let most of it go, knowing I would never be able to recreate what had been written far from home in that exhausted but uniquely productive state of mind.

Viggo Mortensen on his lost notebooks
Introduction to Best American Non-Required Reading
Houghton Mifflin, 2004

"To me the movies that I'm in or a painting or a drawing or a poem that I've made, a photograph, they are all journals in a way, a living diary," said Mortensen. "Everything's about that, valuing what's been and where I am now based on the accumulation of those experiences."

Viggo Mortensen On 'The Road' And The Importance Of Human Connections
By Todd Hill
Staten Island Advance
27 November 2009

© Images © Focus Features.

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Iolanthe's Quotable Viggo

Categories: Quotable Viggo
Hasn’t it been lovely listening to Viggo reading his poetry? Just the treat we’ve been needing when many of our lives have shrunk so much, because words – especially poetry – can transport us away from the limitations of our home and whatever lockdown situations we find ourselves in. Poetry is the language of the soul and the soul can never be confined. Thank you Viggo!

Beyond Baroque 50th Anniversary Gala
© Victoria Looseleaf.

Before becoming an actor, he was a published poet, and he still carries a notebook wherever he goes 'just in case a moment presents itself to be stolen.'

The Appealingly Weird World of Viggo Mortensen
By Amy Wallace
March 2006

“To me Viggo is a poet foremost — I know his work from the days of Cafe Iguana and the Onyx Cafe; and of course he polished his poetry chops in the Wednesday Night Poetry Workshops."

Beyond Baroque director Richard Modiano
The Book of Viggo
By Shana Nys Dambrot
LA Weekly
1 November 2018

His poetry and prose are taut and gripping - the outpourings of a genuine talent, not a bored dilettante.

Understated A-lister Viggo Mortensen tells our reporter about his new cult hit 'Captain Fantastic' - and why it's impossible to be the perfect parent
by Ed Power
Irish Independent
31 August 2016

"Poetry is a way to look at life from multiple points of view, a feeling of duplication which even gets more intense if you do it in two languages, like I do."

Viggo Mortensen
About Them... "I like a brave woman"
By Salvador Llopart - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zooey
La Vanguardia
14 March 2010

‘To write a good poem requires discipline, discretion and precision. I often start with situations of everyday life. One day, in Tehran, I see a tourist bus parked in front of my hotel. The name written on the side of the bus, I forget you forever, intrigues me. Isn't that a strange name for a transport company? It became the title of one of my books of poems and travel photos...’

Viggo Mortensen: "You must live your contradictions”
by Olivier Cariguel
Le Magazine Litteraire
March 2015

"For me, it's like taking apart an engine. You take all the pieces, you put them on a table and when you finish putting it together, you leave some of them aside.”

Viggo on writing poetry
"Writing and acting are like being a kid again"
By Eduardo Bejuk
Gente Magazine – translated by Zooey
September 2009

'I'm always looking at things that I write and going 'what can I take out of that and [make] it still work'. And then, years later... I might look at that poem again and go, 'You know, I can still take out two words.'

Viggo Mortensen
The Fire That Fuels an Artist's Heart
by Carnell
Carpe Noctem magazine #15, 1999

Mr. Mortensen's poetry is not your typical verse and rhyming couplet-type thing, or even the more acceptable modern version of free verse. He creates something more along the lines of prose pictures, imagery forged in words that seek to define, in the words of Joyce that he quotes so appropriately in one of his books, the conciseness of his race.

Review: This That And The Other
By Richard Marcus
March 20, 2007

These [Mortensen's] poems seem close to the way his mind works: things tend to be collaged in where they almost fit, or, more precisely, they fit in the only way they can: almost.

Kevin Power
Viggo Mortensen: A Life Tracking Itself
Singlanguage 2002

'It is important to protect living poetry, which is also why I participate as often as I can in public readings."

Viggo Mortensen
A Year in the Life of Viggo Mortensen
by Sophie Benamon
Studio Magazine, 2003

"Exene... encouraged me to recite my poems in public. At the beginning the idea was totally worrying for me. But something happens when you are faced with an audience. No matter whether you present photographs, pictures, movies or poems to other people, it's worth it because you always learn something."

Viggo Mortensen
Two-Men Show
By Silvia Feist - translated by Always Smiling and Doreen
Vogue Deutsch
November 2005 became quickly obvious when Viggo Mortensen read that he was in a league of his own. Not necessarily for anything spectacular he does with the readings of his poems, in fact he almost delivers them in a monotone, but in his ability to let the poem shine through him like a beacon. He acts as a conduit for his poems so that we are free to make our own interpretations of his work, rather than imposing an emotional reaction on us.

Music Review: 3 Fools For April, Spoken Word
Richard Marcus
15 Feb 2007

"….if you´ve written a poem and you read it, you don´t know what will happen. Something changes between my mouth and the eyes and ears of those who are there reading or listening to my words, my little story. Something changes between writing it and pronouncing the words. I don´t know what the reader receives. There´s no net. For that reason, I'm responsible for what I´ve written and for how I read it."

Viggo Mortensen - All of Us are Mestizos
by Carlos Shilling – translated by Ollie, Remolina, Rio and Zoe
November 2010

© Images © Victoria Looseleaf.

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Last edited: 24 May 2020 18:25:30