A journey through time and space, between 1870 and 2019, between the United States, Mexico and the Amazon rainforest, to discover Native American culture.
“Eureka! » Running naked through the streets of Syracuse, Archimedes had just discovered the notion of density. 2200 years later, Lisandro Alonso ventures to use this formula to title his first film since Jauja (2014). He too would have found the answer to one of our existential questions: “Time is a fiction invented by men”, explains a character from the feature film. The dreamlike journey proposed by the Argentinian filmmaker opens with a western in black and white, with Chiara Mastroianni as a sheriff and Viggo Mortensen as a trigger-happy man looking for his daughter. No place for Native Americans in this small town of debauchery. The inhabitants sleep in the streets, get drunk enough to forget their names, are killed at the slightest misstep. This scene is reminiscent of Rick Dalton’s appearances in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, far from being the filmmaker’s only reference. David Lynch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Coen brothers: hard not to see Eureka a succession of tributes to the great directors of the last decades. Lisandro Alonso crosses eras and borders to invite us to discover the conditions of the natives. The freezing cold and the snowy expanses of Fargo precede a multitude of “twinpeaksian” sequences, justified by the amplitude of the proposed narrative.
The chimerical narration ofEureka is revealed at the end of the monochrome sequence. We are now in our time, Pineridge, in the heart of the Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Alongside the policewoman Debonna begins a long journey into the night. The reality of things appears, far from the America fantasized by white men. Here, the Ameridians are doomed to impoverish themselves and to abandon all hope of social mobility. While looking for a lost little girl, the policewoman comes across bodies lying in a disused hangar, without really knowing if they are still wanted or not. Nothing that surprises her.
The misanthropy of the story spreads out as the filmmaker multiplies the static shots, confirming the infinite despair of Debonna and, above all, of her niece Sadie. We would have hoped for a less static camera to crystallize boredom and melancholy. This multitude of static shots lasting several minutes ends up having the opposite effect to that desired: frustration replaces the viewer’s melancholy, who could have settled for slightly shorter shots. An artistic choice that makes the film’s soft belly sometimes difficult to cross. An error corrected by the following sequence, when Sadie decides to escape reality to enter the realm of dreams and continue her quest in the Amazon.
An enchanting labyrinth
Eureka misnamed. Lisandro Alonso does not give the solution to his story. It’s hard to tell if the whole plot is just a figment of Sadie’s imagination, a dream or very real events…or a mixture of the three. The discussions of the natives of the third part of the film, articulated around the place of dreams and hallucinations, lead us to believe that this fairy tale is nothing other than a pure interpretation of the notion of time and space. . But the story is too disjointed and opaque to afford to hide so many elements of the answer, and Eureka loses all its philosophical significance by preventing the search for a true interpretation.
Fortunately, the transitions between each narrative arc are adorned with a particular charm, revealing the limitless imagination of the filmmaker who distills his political message in a world where the pre-established rules have vanished. Native Americans are completely ignored, even despised, by the characters of Mortensen and Mastroianni. Debonna and Sadie are destined to be abandoned by a country that has no respect for them, while the natives of the last part have their wealth stripped away by the settlers. Lisandro Alonso invites us to become aware of the reality of the situation experienced by Native Americans throughout history and strongly criticizes the icy capitalism of the United States.
Fantastic filmic object, Eureka is a folkloric epic with remarkable technique and imagination, which unfortunately gets lost in a story too nebulous to mark its time.
Of Lisandro AlonsoTowith Viggo Mortensen, Chiara Mastroianni
Cannes Premiere – FEMA La Rochelle
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EUREKA | Review of the film by Lisandro Alonso with Viggo Mortensen