Viggo Mortensen (New York, 61 years old) travels for Wall Street Meet through several time zones. On the one hand, he has lived in the center of Madrid for a decade. On the other part of his work (acting, promotion, even managing his editorial) takes place in the United States. Sitting before the journalist, with a coffee in hand, his slow speech, in that melodic Argentine in which he expresses himself, adds some fatigue (he is promoting his directorial debut, Falling, in the US via Zoom) and a certain artistic pain.
“The pandemic has been very tough. My case cannot even be compared to the deceased or the sick, of course. But Falling’s wings have been clipped, he hasn’t let me develop his career ”, he reflects. The new Donostia Awardhe has made his directorial debut with a drama -which opens in Spain on October 2- that deserved greater repercussion. The epic surrounding Aragorn in Lord of the Rings may be Homeric, but Mortensen’s with Falling – which describes the harsh relationship between a cattle father with senile dementia and his gay son, who lives in California and will have to be done. charge of their care – not far behind.
Debuting at 61 makes you feel older. “Of course I wanted to have done it much earlier. But things come when they come, that’s fine, and in this case I can’t change it. 25 years ago I would have made beginner mistakes ”. And that long journey begins until reaching the screen, which Lance Henriksen entered from the beginning . “We agreed on Appaloosa (2008), and there I noticed how he gave the villain nuances. In addition, he told us stories from other shoots and I discovered what a wonderful storyteller he is. ” And embarked him on his journey.
“I had tried to make a Scandinavian tale 25 years ago. I did not get it. With Falling I started a decade ago, the project fell, I started with another that I also could not get up, and I returned to Falling. I called Lance, who was there from the beginning, and asked if he was still with me. His response was disarming: ‘Do you think I can do it?’ Of course. But Lance had a certain respect for how his character goes in and out of dementia, and that honesty is wonderful. ”
What have you learned during these decades? “That the best directors prepare everything very thoroughly, but then they are attentive to the actors and accidents; and finally they listen to the ideas of everyone involved in the project. I had a short shoot, in winter, with children … Even so, I asked every day if someone came up with something to say it. The important thing is to pay attention, like when you are a parent ”. Among those teachers, David Cronenberg, who plays a doctor in a sequence: “His presence makes the viewer tremble.” For once, Mortensen laughs heartily.
By being attentive, de Henriksen got the opening sentence, in which a father looks tenderly at his newborn son, and suddenly tells him that he is sorry to have brought him into this world. “With his daughter, Lance added that he would always be by his side,” says the New Yorker. “However, the first part of the sentence seemed to me that it gave a flight to his character, that it created a strange, even unsettling, dark start. He also explains that this guy is not like the rest, that he has a different conception of nature and life ”. Are the two characters, father and son, the two sides of the same coin? One seems to love death, another embraces life. “True. However, let no one forget that, deep down, they both come from the same place ”.
Mortensen was attracted to another challenge in his film: the passage of time, the concatenation of seasons, the different passing of the days that is perceived from the countryside or the city, from childhood or adulthood. Filmmakers like Terrence Malick or Lisandro Alonso, with whom he shot and with whom he will repeat, have struggled to capture it on the screen: “Time is related to memory. And the father comes and goes in his dementia. In reality, for everyone memory is very subjective, you cannot trust it. We edit our memories.
We falsely believe that our memories of the past are true, that the present is more diffuse. That mistake. I was a photographer before I was an actor and I have made records. From all that past I got a clear idea of what I needed to reflect all that on the screen ”.
The director tells,Falling was born from the experiences of her family, of taking care of her mother, who at the same time had taken care of her second husband with senile dementia. “There have been quite a few cases around me: uncles, grandparents It is a very personal story, although, I’m not kidding you, any movie would be just as personal, and if I have done this it has been because I have obtained the financing by including myself as an actor ”.
After a sip of coffee, the three-time Oscar candidate thanks Donostia, and puts it in context: “It makes me happy, and I like to remember the past, although without recreating myself. Every role, every adventure adds up. I have had very good luck. I have made several such wonderful films that only one would shine on any performer’s resume. The prizes are good, but they don’t give food ”.
And he confesses a painful contradiction: “My face raises some projects. And yet even my presence at Falling didn’t accelerate production, though it cemented it. Hopefully in the next one as director I don’t have to. The process of making money in indie cinema is very fragile ”. In autumn-winter 2019, FallingIt seemed to be flying high: it would start 2020 at the Sundance festival, then it would screen in Cannes and make a great presentation for the film industry in Toronto.
The pandemic disrupted the fall of dominoes, and Toronto Mortensen’s promotion has been carried out from a distance, while still finding no distribution in the United States: “The battle is long.” He does not give up, and during the confinement he has written again: “I had written a western, and now I have also started another, a story based on stories from my family, in World War II in Nazi-occupied Europe. Both are starred by children, without known actors. We’ll see”.