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Documentary of the Day – Lost in La Mancha

Posted on the 10 February 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

One of the most endearing things about Terry Gilliam, other than his body of work, is the fact that his films are marred in such adversity that it is a wonder why he keeps making movies.  From set disasters, actor injuries, and film troubles, it’s like he has a biblical plague that follows him around when he is making a movie.  It is both weird and fascinating to see such troubles befall a director like him, but it’s even more fascinating that he does it again and again even when the odds are stacked against him.  For the past decade, Gilliam has been wanting to make an adaptation of the novel Don Quixote.  In 2002, he had an opportunity to do so and just when things got started, well, his production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote turned into his own little version of Don Quixote.

Documentary of the Day – Lost in La Mancha

Lost in La Mancha is a chronicling of his first attempt to adapt the Don Quixote novel in a feature film.  What should have been a successful production, turned into an utter nightmare of elemental issues, actors being hurt and a persistent NATO weapons range nearby that just constantly stacked the deck against making the movie.  The documentary of the production was done at the behest of Gilliam, who often documents his filmmaking process so he can reflect on the work he is putting into his film.  Little did they know that this documentary would ultimately be a very loose Don Quixote film and not the one that Gilliam wanted to make.

When you watch Lost in La Mancha, there is a upbeat and happy mood being shown on the crews faces.  You can tell that they were excited to be doing a unique adaptation on the novel Don Quixote, but also because it was a pet project that Gilliam had been wanting to do for a long time.  Gilliam’s work and themes in previous movies kind of run hand in hand with the novel, the one man verse society and the concept of sanity.  All those thematic elements in the novel manifest in production of the film as noise disruption, flash floods and even a key actor being hurt basically crushed all hopes of this movie getting made.

Documentary of the Day – Lost in La Mancha

It’s an interesting documentary as you are essentially watching the unraveling of a big budget production and the sunny disposition of Gilliam never changes.  Mountains of problems and he stays positive and happy along with the dedicated crew of his.  There is something endearing about watching the inner workings of a movie being made.  You can tell that they are all there for the love of the medium and even a series of maladies cannot dampen the spirits.  Sure, the movie was ruined and ultimately shelved for several years, but there is at least a record in this documentary that chronicles that even the best directors and best intentions can always be felled by misfortune.


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