[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B000083EGF][/pullquote] Lost in La Mancha, captured by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, tells the ill-fated tale of Terry Gilliam’s attempt in the summer of 2000 to break the ‘curse of Quixote’ and finally do what no-one else has done successfully before – adapt the novel of Don Quixote into a successful film. After first becoming a fledgling idea in Gilliam’s mind in 1990, it took a decade for everything to be put into place to green light the film and the cast and crew decamped to Spain to begin a shoot which would be far from smooth sailing.
From day one it was clear that budgetary restrictions and the almost 0% margin for error the director had with the timing of when his key actors would be available would mean that Lost in La Mancha would have to go off perfectly if the final product were ever to be realised. With a lead actor (Jean Rochefort) who’s credentials are rarer than hen’s teeth (must be over 70, speak good Spanglish and have solid horse riding skills to name but three) and who has only been learning English for seven months, you do rather get the feeling that this is doomed from day one since the slightest delay or misstep will have disastrous consequences.
Through the incredibly hands on access afforded to Fulton and Pepe we quickly see that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, and you have to sympathise with the protagonists to whom the foulest luck befalls them at every possible turn. Not only do they have to contend with a lead actor who’s health lets him down just days into the shoot but mother nature deals them a cruel blow early on from which they never recover. With a lack of studio backing and an insurance company who may or may not compensate them for the lost shooting time, the production quickly falls apart despite some half baked attempts to press on with what they have left.
To Gilliam’s credit, despite the unfolding disaster, he remains accessible and we get to join him in crisis meetings with the producers and in times of private reflection to provide an honest assessment of the state of play.
If there is one criticism that should be levied at Lost in La Mancha it is that the central subject is just simply not compelling enough. Since it chronicles an event rather than picking a subject and educating the viewer, it would be quite possible that people could be bored quite quickly unless they have a particular interest in the Quixote story or Gilliam himself.