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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

In Spanish, the word jauja (pronounced ‘how-ha’) means a land of milk and honey, longed for but never reached. Argentine director Lisandro Alonso couldn’t have found a more appropriate name for his magical film about yearning and illusion.

On one level, ‘Jauja’ is literally about people on a quest for territory. Set in no-man’s-Patagonia in the late nineteenth century, it opens with a group of Argentine officers, accompanied by a Danish engineer (Viggo Mortensen) and his teenage daughter, as they plot to conquer the region. But when the girl goes missing and her father heads off to find her, ‘Jauja’ begins to take on more existential overtones.

This story – a colonialist losing his grip in a threatening place – recalls Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’. But with no Klaus Kinski to grandstand, it is subtler and more intimate. Mortensen is excellent as the disoriented European, but the film’s great achievement is to create an uneasy claustrophobia in spite of the sweeping landscape. Nobody trusts anyone. And as the coastal hills of the first act give way to the open plains and the plot deepens, we absorbingly retreat into this father’s head.

Or is it somebody else’s head? A Lynchian coda upends the entire film, raising several questions and resolving none. Fans of rigorous storytelling may find it to be one whimsical step too far, but others will marvel at this miraculous coup de théâtre. ‘Jauja’ is a film to make you wonder.

Written by Alex Dudok de Wit

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 10 April 2015
  • Duration:108 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Lisandro Alonso
  • Screenwriter:Lisandro Alonso, Fabian Casas
  • Cast:
    • Viggo Mortensen
    • Ghita Nørby
    • Diego Roman
    • Viilbjørk Malling Agger
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