Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja opens with three consecutive, indelible shots – one where we see Viggo Mortensen’s Gunnar Dinesen having a full conversation with his back to the camera, before we cut to a man picking bits of flesh out of his teeth with a sharp knife, to then move across to a sequence whereby we witness a middle aged man, sitting naked in a small pool of water, masturbating. It’s fair to say that from this point onwards you know fully well you’re in for something rather unconventional, and though admiring the filmmaker’s innovation and inclination for minimalism, the lack of linearity and narrative structure is to the film’s detriment.

Dinesen is a captain, situated in the barren, distant landscape of a picturesque, and somewhat mythical desert in Patagonia, South America – alongside his curious teenage daughter Ingeborg (Viilbjørk malling Agger). Spurning advances from the devious Lieutenant Pittaluga (Adrián Fondari) – who has a taste for younger girls, the captain is left in a state of anxiety when his daughter goes missing, as he proceeds to scowl the land to find her.

Though the setting is like a utopia of sorts, this dark, brooding piece is grounded by the antagonist’s wish to begin a colonial war, and an unforgiving genocide of the natives. Given this picture is presented in a square frame, Alonso ensures that, despite the beautiful scenery, it’s never the main focus – and instead our interests lie with our protagonist, and the arduous task of discovering his daughter’s whereabouts.

That’s not to say the setting doesn’t play a huge part in this piece – enhancing the harrowing sense of isolation and vulnerability, while almost taking on the form of a plain, where Pittaluge is the predator, hunting in the wilderness. As a result, and while Dinesen bears a gun – and a willingness to use it – he takes on the form of the prey, as he clumsily ventures through the rocky surfaces, tripping over, not quite as ease with his surroundings. He’s no Ray Mears, put it that way.

There’s an unforgettable atmosphere to this piece, and one that is almost hypnotic – with the sound of the gentle waves in the distance, and the horses hooves on the harsh ground – it’s rhythmic, and forms an ambiance that makes up for the lack of palpable story. Alonso keeps his narrative ambiguous and his means of storytelling abstract, in what is a pensive, slow-burning piece that will certainly make you think.

That being said, whether you quite come to terms with the director’s vision is another matter entirely, as a film that poses questions – but is sure not how to answer them. There is undoubtedly a lot to be admired from this production, though it isn’t quite one you’d feel confident recommending to friends. Which is actually pretty handy, because it’s not the easiest title to pronounce (it’s How-Ha, by the way).