Monday, 3 October 2011

Narrative: Review on 'Lost in La Mancha' (2002)

FIG.1: Lost in La Mancha Poster 
Director: Keith Fulton
Producer: Lucy Darwin
Year: 2002
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp.

 Lost in La Mancha is a documentary about the making of Terry Gilliam's dream project 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'  which was never completed. Terry Gilliam was a bit of a Don Quixote himself as he saw things other people couldn't see- he had high expectations and was willing to achieve the unachievable. Despite the lack of facilities, staff and actors he insisted in making his film and soon enough saw his dream falling apart like a house of cards right in front of his eyes.  Gilliam himself mentioned in one of his interviews about the documentary: “The reason people get soexcited or moved by it is that it’s maybe the first time you’re seeingsomething truthful about film-making. It isn’t all about how wonderfuleverything is and how happy we all are. For better or for worse, it’s a truetale.” T.Gilliam (Sterrit.2004:209)

FIG.2: Gilliam instructing the actors

Even from Orsen Wille’s first attempt to shoot the film in 1955, the film project seemed to already be cursed as it was not completed back then either. Gilliam spent about 32 million dollars for the film, which aborted after six days of shooting in Spain and Gilliam finance collapsed shortly after. With these two failed challenges it turned out there seemed to be something fated about Cervantes’ questing hero. 
Lost in La Mancha has many narrators with Terry Gilliam acting as a first-person narrator but also as a character, a spectator, a director, an actor and a storyboard artist. The documentary treats us in scenes such as auditions with big names of the cinema such as Johnny Depp, storyboarding, quests for the perfect location shootings, puppet making, screen tests of grotesque giants and horse training. But the documentary is not all about the exciting parts of making the film. Bad luck started striking the project. The fly-on-the-wall camera captures rising problems of a multilingual crew arguing, weather conditions restricting outdoor filming with Gilliam trying to chase the light of the sun to complete a scene and his crew struggling to save the equipment from an unexpected storm, actors remaining absent, untrained horses and Gilliam in moments of desperation who witnesses his dream falling to pieces. A Slade poited out: "Lost in La Mancha draws parallels between the catastrophes of the driven geniuses Gilliam and Welles, and compares both men to the disaster-prone Quixote."(Slade.2004:896). The most painful thing is seeing reality win over Quixote in the end. And it did.

FIG.3: Gilliam in an outdoor shooting scene.
In conclusion, Lost La Mancha is a brilliant documentary to watch. A real treat depicting the hard work of a film-maker and especially for a man like Terry Gilliam who could not see through his problems coming one after another and insisted in making his dream come true-even if that meant sacrificing. But in the film industry, it's all about taking risks. Gilliam took the risk, it just wasn't meant to be. 


Sterrit, David (2004). Terry Gilliam interviews. University Press of Mississippi: USA
Slade, Carol(2004) Don Quixote. Creative Media, Inc: USA

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: Lost in La Mancha Poster At: 

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