Lord of the Polyglots

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We all know that the Lord of the Rings trilogy featured a fantasy world filled with hobbits, dwarves, elves, and ents, but did you also know there was a polyglot roaming the hills of Middle Earth as well?

Viggo Mortensen, whose portrayal of the prince in exile Aragorn made women all over the world want to slather their men in mud and sweat and horse hair, returns as the infamous (in Spain) jaded ex-officer for the declining Spanish Empire turned mercenary in the Spanish film Alatriste. The adventure novel series set in 17th century Madrid by Arturo Perez-Reverte is extremely popular in Spain, and have spawned five or six sequels, so the fact Alatriste is reportedly “the most expensive Spanish-language film ever made in Spain” doesn’t surprise me. That sort of title is normally reserved for movies featuring extravagant battlefield scenes involving hundreds of starving extras.

And yes, the man speaks Spanish in the film, and he speaks it fluently. As a matter of fact, according to wikipedia.org, “Mortensen is fluent in English, Danish, Spanish and somewhat fluent in Norwegian. He also speaks French, Italian, and Swedish reasonably well.” So sure, while he can play Aragorn in English, Capitan Alatriste in Spanish, and Hamlet in Danish, he might be less than convincing in a Henrik Ibsen biopic in Oslo. What a freak!

I wanted to see if Viggo is actually fluent or just had good coaching for the film, so me being currently unemployed and it being a rainy day in New York, I trolled the Infinite Variety that is the Internet and found this interview on Tele5, a major news channel in Spain. Sure enough, Viggo’s Spanish kicks ass. [Just click on the video twice to go to the youTube page itself]


I admit that I have a soft spot for multilingual celebrities. I love watching Swiss tennis star Roger Federer give press conferences in three different languages equally well, and it tickles me to see what sort of expressions or colloquialisms are slightly misused by non-native speakers. It makes me feel like the world is a slightly smaller, and maybe better, place.

~ by Jeff on September 15, 2006.

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