Viggo Mortensen - Heroic On And Off Screen
16 October 2006
Alatriste is a very heavy-duty Spanish cape-and-sword flick directed by Spanish veteran Agustín Díaz Yanes, and starring Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen (of Lord of the Rings). The story is set in the Seventeenth century in the Reign of Philip IV as Spain is in decline from its position as the dominating European superpower, and follows the dedicated soldier of fortune Diego Alatriste y Tenorio through twenty years of his life, from the grim muddy wars in Flanders in 1623 to those against France in 1643.
Viggo, speaking vintage Castillian Spanish with his own voice, dominates the film as a kind of Medieval Clint Eastwood, short on words, long on deadly action when required, but this is no swashbuckler in the Hollywood tradition. This is a realistic, nitty-gritty historical picture with realistic sword brawls devoid of the balletic qualities of an Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone encounter. This movie is down and dirty and not for the faint of heart, but it is monumental in concept and execution. Sergio Leone would have loved it, but so would Michael Curtiz.
There is plenty of story and romantic interludes are supplied by the superb Spanish actress, Ariadna Gil. Gil plays an actress who declaims Golden Age Spanish drama on the stage while Velazquez is completing his famous canvas of The Surrender of Breda. Mortensen's Captain Alatriste, under the wide brimmed hat with a peculiar Anzac twist, raspy voice, cold-eyed gaze and menacing professional manner, is everything the role requires, and his performance is one of the triumphs of the film.
I think it was a bit too heavy for the late evening Italian audience but it certainly left a strong mark on my own Castillian speaking consciousness. Hard to tell if this picture will sell outside of Spanish speaking territories, but in my estimation it's one of the best costume dramas of its kind in years - and plenty of battlefield action for the violence freaks.
Viggo who was in town to boost the film pulled a little off-duty heroism of his own on the street in Rome when, in plain clothes, he drove off a pack of hoodlums who were molesting a guy, gleefully and dutifully reported in all the the local papers.
Last edited: 9 March 2007 10:36:12