Spring and Autumn Storms
By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie, Rio and Zoe
18 November 2011
Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro
Viggo and his take on the club's current situation, synchronicity, the mysterious and even impossible things that happen, in a new chat with Fabián Casas.
I know you have been to Chile to present a prize and to give a lecture in the Cátedra Bolaño. I hope this trip across the Andes has gone well for you.
Well, it seems that there´s still some commotion in the team, rumours about what´s going on in the locker room, alleged internal quarrels on the board of directors, the money that there is and there isn´t -- up to a point I believe they are the usual fears and doubts about the functioning of an important club like ours. The good thing is that the players seem to have talked and understood each other, they are playing united, trying to turn around the bad patch they had to live through. I´m glad that those who were threatening to leave the club because of the attacks by the barras, the internal quarrels -- and the apparent lack of protection and support from the club and the AFA -- have decided to stay. I support, 100%, Jonathan Botinelli, Pablo Migliore, Christian Tula and other players who, whatever they do, wherever they play, have clearly shown their courage, good team play and loyalty towards San Lorenzo. But I´m very glad that they´ll stay with CASLA as long as they can, that they feel the same pride and stubbornness that we supporters feel. This way, with an unconditional devotion, trust and the right way can be found.
"...And go, go matador...I go everywhere with you...I follow you from the cradle to the coffin...I carry you in my heart...Go, San Lorenzo, go ...I will always follow you...through good and bad times...till the end..."
But, speaking of rumours, of misinterpreted words, of the maze woven by the opinions dropped everywhere by the media, blogs and supporters (I include myself), some members of CASLA have written to explain to me a little the feelings of the supporters who have been angry with Botinelli, Tula and other players. Among other things, these supporters tell me that although they understand the frustration of the players who are paid none of their wages (sometimes for years), and who don´t think it´s right to have the barrabravas harassing them, they don´t like it either when a player doesn´t seem to feel the colours. They don't understand how a player can not show up for preseason training on time, even if they haven't paid and continue to not pay him a penny of his salary. That he has to show up, he has to be there in the bad times as well as good, just like the true supporters. I don't know. I understand how they feel, but it's also a complicated matter. A player makes a living from this sport for a fairly short period of his life, and he puts himself at risk every time he goes out to play. A serious injury and his career, his economic future (and the partying) are over, and then he'll have to put up with being in need and have to try to find a new way to make a living, in many cases starting from scratch. As an actor that at some points has been able to earn a lot for my work, I understand that many people expect exemplary behavior from me and total professionalism every moment. I do what I can to behave well, to treat others well, to do my work well. At times, I get tired or I make mistakes and say and do things that I might regret. We are all human beings, capable of making mistakes, of having bad moments. At times, I see how actors are criticized for things that are properly the fault of the producers or distributors of the films. Actors don't control everything and at times, they earn nothing, or they earn very little. Sometimes producers steal, don't pay, don't release the film well, a film which is the fruit of work that may have taken years for the director, his crew and his actors to prepare, finance and shoot. At times, the actors want to attend to the fans and the press in a more generous way when films are released, but they can't do it for lack of time and commitments that they don't control. I understand that I am incredibly lucky, that telling stories on film or in the theatre is a privilege. I'm sure the players understand that they are living the dream of many, many people, of so many kids, to play in the first [division] of San Lorenzo. The players are, as actors are in relation to films, the most visible part of the business. But they don't control everything and they have the right to express their opinions and to be paid what is owed them according to the contract. There are moments when any worker - as much as he might feel loyalty toward the boss/business/club - has no other remedy but to refuse to work if he is being defrauded or treated unjustly. At times, there's no other way. Well, we could continue almost interminably with this subject of the responsibilities and the rights of players, workers, the opinions and expectations of the supporters.
Speaking of the club, I learned something interesting regarding Purgatorio, the Ariel Dorfman play that we recently opened in Madrid. We have a carpenter on the crew who's named Manuel Casla! Seriously! He's a sweet guy. At the moment, he knows nothing about San Lorenzo. I'm going to give him a t-shirt and a book about the history of San Lorenzo de Almagro. It seems that Casla is a last name of Catalán origin.
© Viggo Mortensen.
Well, I can also say that after the nerves and mistakes of the preview week, we opened the play quite well in Room 2 of the Matadero in Madrid's Legazpi neighborhood. It's a space connected with the Teatro Español, perfect for this play. The old building in which Room 2 is [located] is where they slaughtered pigs many years ago. The ghosts of those creatures accompany us in Dorfman's tough story. Carme Elías, my co-star, is doing a great job and is helping me a lot to make mine the best possible. She, like our director Josep Maria Mestres, has become a Ciclón fan. Here she is wearing her lovely new t-shirt for the first time:
© Viggo Mortensen.
Dear V: I had a hard time getting home after Chile because the air traffic controllers were on strike and I had to wait for my [flight] to be rescheduled. I took advantage of the time to read, stretched across several airport seats at Gate 9, a brilliant book called Wake in Fright. Have you read it? It's an Australian novel from 1961 that's become something like a very dark classic. There's been a film made too. The author of the book is Kenneth Cook and he died of a heart attack when he was in his 50s, very young. The title of the book comes from a proverb that says, "May you dream of the Devil and wake in fright." It's odd, all the literature that the Devil can produce. It's always caught my attention that metalheads practice Devil worship. It seems to me that the Devil isn't a fan of loud volume and being conspicuous. The Devil keeps a low profile, like Thomas Pynchon. The Devil doesn't like heavy metal; he prefers chamamé. Have you heard the song "Merceditas"? It's a masterpiece of Argentinian folklore and in its melodies there's something demonic and inspirational.
When I read what you wrote telling me that your rehearsals were an uphill climb, that you didn't get it right, I remembered that when I go see a play, the possibility that the actor might forget his lines makes me nervous - I don't know why. Here, when that happens and the actors have to ad lib because they don't remember their lines, we call it "morcillear". Has that happened to you?
Well, the thing is, I came back and found out how Casla did against All Boys. My old man and my brother Juan went to the pitch and they told me that they wanted to die from helplessness. Won't our players be morcilleando? Incredible that the carpenter in your stage play has the surname Casla. Those symbolic links without any apparent relationship that reality likes to create are strange. Carl Jung studied these phenomena and designated them under the concept of synchronicity. What is this? When two apparently unrelated things appear that nonetheless create a strange and significant link -for example, the wife of one of his patients who tells him that when her mother and grandmother died, a large number of birds had gathered on the window of the room in which she died. Having this in her psyche, she went into a panic when her husband went out to visit Doctor Jung and a great flock of birds landed at the door of their house. Of course, the man was struck dead on the street. Critic Abraham Haber says that, "accepting that there is a relationship in meaning in this story implies accepting that reality is also symbolic, that a real object is a metaphor for another, that meaning also exists independently of the conscience that bestows it." Well, azulgrana hugs.
I´m glad to know you have crossed the mountain range again without any problems and are again with your family.
Yes, I know the song "Merceditas
"! It´s from the early 1940's, very popular in all of South America. Those who don´t know it can hear a lovely version by Los Visconti here:
and here a very good instrumental version on the accordion by Raúl Barboza, "The chamamé
It´s true that the song is beautiful and has something sad in it, but it doesn´t scare me. I love it. Maybe the "demonic" that you get has to do with the song´s origins, about the unrequited love between the one who wrote it (Ramón Sixto Ríos) and a woman from Humboldt, in the Santa Fe province, called Mercedes Strickler. Beautiful, blonde, very independent. She didn´t want to marry him. It seems that Ramón finally married another, but the woman died and he was left alone and childless. Many years later he met "Merceditas" Strickler again , and proposed to her again. She rejected him one more time. When the guy kicked the bucket in 1944, he bequeathed the rights of this famous song to Strickler. This is also what love is, a way of loving -- and suffering. Like in movies. "Merceditas
" is still being recorded everywhere, in different languages. Los Chalchaleros did a version that had a lot of success in 1973.
Ramón and Mercedes.
I don´t know Kenneth Cook´s book, but I´m going to look for it. And also the film. Did you see the film? Is it good? Is it Australian?
As for "morcillear
," [ad-libbing] we´ve already had to do it a couple of times in the performances of Purgatorio
. Dorfman´s text, that
is demonic! Devilish because it has many repetitions of dialogue or parts of dialogue, and time keeps on folding over itself a little. Since the repetitions are not exact, sometimes we get it wrong and somehow have to pull things out of the fire and carry on without the audience noticing the mistake. In general it´s a question of improvising something similar to the correct text in order to return to the point where we should be, but it´s scary! Here I leave you with something I found about ad-libbing, [written] by the actor Juan Carlos Di Lullo, that was recently published in the Gaceta de Tucumán.
From what I've read, it seems like things went very well for you in Chile. Those who don't know about it might be interested in this [article] I found about your visit to present the prize for the Concurso de Cuentos de Paula
[Paula magazine's story competition], and the bit about the lecture. It's also got a little information about your work, for those who still don't know it, and a lovely photo of you:
What you say about Jung is interesting. His ideas about "synchronicity", the rather mystical side of that Swiss brain. That side is the one that Freud feared, that he didn't want to blend with the new science of psychoanalysis that he had fathered, the side that Jung was moving closer and closer to with time, finally coming to be as much a sort of religious authority as a scientific one.
first row: Freud (left), Jung (right), 1909 visit ….
Joseph Campbell admired Jung greatly for his work in comparative mythology. Campbell's books The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God are classics that have a lot to do with Jung's thought, his "archetypes" and "collective unconscious". Campbell writes very well, explains things very well, communicating with simple beauty his passion for finding the links between different systems of mythology, between religions, between human beings. Another genius.
I like mysteries, the impossible things that happen, time slows or seems to go backwards or slowing down in an unusual way at certain moments of our lives. I usually don´t need an explanation to understand or better appreciate the mysterious. Climate, animals, the things that happen to you on a ship, in the desert, in the woods, in a kiss, what comes out of your pen or keyboard, what your camera sees, what you see in the flames on the stove , the unexpected and disconcerting "wise" phone calls, our "guesses" or those of others. It´s true that sometimes I want to know more -- if I think it can help me understand, for instance, the bad in me or another suddenly raging person, or a complicated and maybe inexplicably cruel experience. Or if I´m lost or need a bit of luck to get out of a fucked up situation. I´m not saying that I´m going to get an explanation because I long for it, but sometimes I seek it. The interesting thing is that when you go out in search of something you tend to find something else completely different.
The other day we were talking about how depressed we get, for example, because of what´s happening now with San Lorenzo, and what happens sometimes in our lives, the cursed moments. You said that you´ve sometimes fallen into infernal depressions from which it seemed to you very difficult to get out. Sometimes I also get depressed in a terrible way, and then I think I can understand a little why so many people in the world commit suicide, many more than we know, than the papers, the army, the schools tell us, what we are told by the almost infinite, wonderfully twisted and finite, stories of millions and millions of people who come to this world and stay for a short or long while, who suffer and sometimes enjoy their fragile existence. Luckily, or by chance, somehow I´ve always gone forward, like you do, and that seems to me a sort of fundamental victory, clean, undeniable. There´s a little story by Cortázar that has this sentence:
"...when you are given a watch, they present you with a little blooming hell, a chain of roses, a jail cell of air..."
No, when I spoke about "Merceditas" as something demonic it's not because it scares me, but the accordion does produce a certain uneasiness in me, how can I put it... like the imminent appearance of something extraordinary, as if Batman suddenly appeared on the roof of the house across the street. On the other hand, I am very attached to this song because when I was a kid, I was part of a school choir and they made me sing it and in that same choir was a girl I was in love with. She was the first girl I liked in the world. And what's more, when I saw her drinking from a drinking fountain at school (I was in fourth grade and she was, unattainable, in fifth), through her, I realized that undoubtedly I liked women. She was part of the San Lorenzo swim team and, oh my God, I didn't know how to swim! So I followed her up there, to the club pools in the summer and set myself to learning how to swim to keep up [with her],when suddenly her eyes caught mine from the little kingdom where she was with her friends and she looked at me, electrifying me like in "Merceditas." So that's how I grew up learning to swim, diving in headfirst, and entrusting myself to the gods of the pools.
CASLA swimming pool.
This was a constant in my life. I never knew how to do anything; I always had to struggle with it, to apply myself. To learn. Shut in with a single toy, I'd turn the thing around and around until I managed to assemble a decent sentence to start my story. I started to write the day that I understood my stupidity. And I'm always attentive to that. Working against my ability.... I believe that sooner or later, a person in a trade discovers his ability. Well, a writer, an actor, whatever, should always go against his ability. And he also has to avoid comfort, hiding find from it, like Garrincha [did]. Because comfort weakens you.
Garrincha being annoying at the World Cup.
Since I should have posted something new on the website some time ago, I'm going to finish up now - but there are a whole lot of things I want to know! What happened with your little mermaid, the "Merceditas" of the club pool? Do you know where she is now? I swam when I was a kid, and fell hopelessly in love, unreciprocated, often putting too much pressure on the matter, on the poor girls who wanted to know nothing about it. Well, perhaps we can talk a little in the next instalment about love, the images that remain deep within us from the movies, from stories, of adults that we observed in childhood, how those images guide us...
Until then, give kisses to all of your family and
Hold On, Ciclón!
Last edited: 30 November 2011 10:44:04
© Viggo Mortensen/Fabian Casas/Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro.