Interviews 2019

Viggo Mortensen: "Culture represents a country for the rest of the world"

Source: La Vanguardia

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Berlin - For Viggo Mortensen, it is impossible to faithfully say with words what one feels or thinks. It's a challenge, he says, that always leads to failure, but in spite of that, he continues writing what, according to him, cannot be written.

This reflection is none other than the one given to the title of a new book (What Cannot Be Written) in which Mortensen (New York 1958), better known for his career on the big screen, joins poetry with photography to open a window on what he feels

This is how he describes his book in an interview with EFE minutes before reading some of his poems in the Berlin Instituto Cervantes as part of the "Latinale" festival of poetry in Spanish.

About reading, he admits to feeling a special interest in that. "Every reading is different, because there's something happening between your mouth and the one who listens. What happens tonight with those poems won't happen again."

The actor and writer has no problem speaking in Spanish. For the first decade of his life, he was raised in Argentina, and for him, the language is "a way to express myself that comes naturally to me, especially if I'm in Spain."

Mortensen is very familiar with Spain, a country that he thinks still does not give the boost to its film culture that it should.

"There have been periods in which aid for people who begin to shoot their own films is quite poor; national and regional subsidies exist, but they are not what they were," he declares.

He reflects that, "We have to remember that culture represents a country for the rest of the world. Every time someone is given a prize one feels very proud of his country.

"But what's important is not the prize, but rather that art travels, that it reaches people. And so for that reason, artists that can become good artists need help."

It's a similar situation, he believes, to the subject of privatization of public services, something which he is clearly against. "It seems as if anything that doesn't earn money or that doesn't produce immediate results is not worth investing in," he states.

"I would say that there are four things that are essential: healthcare, education, transportation and care of the elderly. Everyone needs those things and it shouldn't be a question of being profitable."

Mortensen concludes that what´s really important is improving these circumstances and investing in a country's culture, since "that will have repercussions far beyond, after you have gone."

Since 2002, when he founded the publishing house Perceval Press, which is now publishing his book, he's been contributing to this support of culture.

"It was the same thing as sharing a book that I like a lot with a friend. The idea was to find artists whose work interests me and share them," he says.

It's a small publishing house, of which, he laments, there remain too few due to the fact that they're absorbed by large conglomerates.

In addition to being associated with this publishing house, Viggo Mortensen's name has resounded in Hollywood since 1984, when he appeared on screen for the first time in a role with few scenes in the film, Witness.

After more than fifty appearances and three Oscar nominations - for acting in Eastern Promises (2007), Captain Fantastic (2016) and Green Book (2018) - the actor has achieved a career that some think enviable.

A career he has not put on hold to explore these other artistic avenues. Right now, he explains, he has just finished editing a new film in which he is the director and screenwriter, as well as being an actor.

This film is scheduled to premiere in 2020, so in the meantime Mortensen hopes that people who read his book "would leave it next to the bed at night; that way maybe they will wake up thinking 'I'm going to make the most of the new day,' since in part I wrote the book as a reflection on what was and the opportunities to come."
Last edited: 8 January 2020 05:29:38