© Florencia Blanco/Fame/Flynet.
Who is Lisandro Alonso? The most important filmmaker, along with Lucrecia Martel and Mariano Llinás, of what is called the New Argentine Cinema.
In 2001, La libertad [Freedom], Lisandro Alonso´s extraordinary first work, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a movie that resisted the paradigm of Argentine cinema at the time. The core of the film dealt with the life of a silent logger and the complete cycle of a day in his life. It seemed like a story about nothingness itself, but the way of filming the loneliness of a man and his routine work revealed an exquisite sensitivity and a great filmmaker. Since then, Alonso has only filmed lives at the margins of civilization´s benefits. He was our independent filmmaker par excellence.
Later came Los muertos [The Dead] (2004) and Liverpool (2008). In both of them, he repeated a formal search with some variations and a thematic obsession: long shots, never excessive but rigorous, no music, few words, few characters, always at the service of a state of the soul, that of men who sustain themselves in the face of the desolation of the world.
Some months ago, unthinkable, unpredictable news appeared: the famous American (and Danish) actor, Viggo Mortensen, the one from The Lord of the Rings, would be the star of the new Lisandro Alonso film, still untitled, spoken in Danish, whose filming begins tomorrow. In addition, these days, Alonso is making a visit to Córdoba to present in the Espacio Incaa de Unquillo, the film El lugar del hijo [The Son's Place], which he produced and which was directed by Manuel Nieto. In the same theatre, just this week, a retrospective of his work is being held.
It's now been about 13 years since the premiere of La Libertad. How do you see the evolution of your work?
I feel fortunate. To have been able to make what we've made with the people I worked with and all of it so quickly. With Liverpool, I thought that I'd already come to a certain point with the films that I'd been making. I was curious to make something else. The short, Without Title already had another register and the new film that I'm going to make [does] too.
Now you are bringing on board something completely different; to begin with, you are going to work with professional actors. How did you arrive at that decision?
While writing the script, I realized that the things that were going to happen in this film had another dramatic requirement. The film revolves around a loss; the protagonist loses his daughter. She disappears. That's the narrative thread and I think that emotional shock has to be played with precision. Besides, it deals with a foreign character and in the first 15 minutes, the importance of the dialogue is crucial, something that hasn't happened in my films.
Was it through Fabián Casas, with whom you wrote the script, that Mortensen was brought into the film?
Yes, they're friends. When we began to outline the story, the main character was British. Later we decided to move away a little from the context of the English in 19th century Argentina. It occurred to us that the character could be Danish and then we thought about him. So with him in mind, we continued rewriting the film and Viggo also began to get involved and to provide lots of ideas.
Had Viggo seen your films?
When he filmed Todos tenemos un plan, Lucio Bonelli, who worked with me as director of photography on Fantasma [Ghost] and Liverpool and also on Ana Piterbarg's film, handed him my films on DVD. It seems that he really liked Los Muertos [The Dead].
How is your relationship with him?
A week before filming we are feeling safer and on more solid ground. Viggo bet on this and immersed himself in it.
One of the novel aspects of the film is that it takes place in another century, although once again you are filming in Patagonia and in the desert. Why?
Actually, what I like is to get away from civilization, from everything urban, from the world of words. Where I´m going to film there are no animals, or vegetation, much less men. It´s the indigenous itself, and this is going to add to what I want to tell.
Have you already rehearsed with Viggo? You usually work with brief scripts.
Yes, this script has some 20 pages. Until now, we haven't read the script with Viggo. He has his version; I have mine. We go over some scenes and talk a lot, some two or three hours a day, about how we are going to film certain sequences and about how his character is progressing.
Would you have ever thought that someday you would work with a movie star like Mortensen?
I met Viggo at the Toronto Film Festival. He was premiering Alatriste in 2006, and I was there with Fantasma. I exchanged a few words with him while we were drinking a couple of beers at a party; he seemed like a likeable guy and I thought about him, the way someone would fantasize about playing on the national soccer team. Later, I started to look into the things he'd done, and it seemed more striking to me than his career as an actor. There's no doubt that he's an extraordinary actor, but I was interested in something of a different nature. Something more related to the idea of the "model" in Bresson's [work], a quality.
How long will the filming take?
We're going to take 3 weeks in April, and another half week in May, when we'll also have another Danish actress, Ghita Nørby, who is a great star in Danish cinema, another great contribution of Viggo's.