Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Though I haven't read Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote yet, I've always been intrigued by the story which is why I'm really looking forward to seeing Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. I had no idea how hard it's been to make that movie, but now, thanks to Steven who picked Lost in La Mancha for a Thursday Movie Picks back in April, I do. 

This is indeed a documentary about the making of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Not the movie starring Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce that premiers in Cannes this month, but Terry Gilliam's first attempt to make the film, back in 2000. It was supposed to be the making of the film, but it was a failure so it became about Gilliam's failure in making the film, which is why it was eventually renamed Lost in La Mancha.

This documentary is a quite fascinating look at how wrong things can go while making a movie. Actually, how everything can go wrong while making a movie because everything went wrong in Gilliam's first attempt. From pre-production to production itself, not a single thing went as planned.

The budget was huge for a European production (32 million) but it wasn't big enough to make the kind of film Gillam wanted to make, the extras hadn't been rehearsed, planes flew overhead, almost a biblical thunderstorm happened which flooded some of the equipment and therefore halted production, and as if that all wasn't enough Jean Rochefort, the old French actor who could ride a horse and spent months learning English to be able to play Don Quixote, suffered from ill health. And after only 6 days of troubled shooting, the project was abandoned.

Lost in La Mancha is unfortunately limited by that. This was supposed to be about the making of the film and not about its failure, I get that, but the footage of just 6 days of shooting, some interviews and not much more isn't enough to make the documentary as interesting as it could have been. Gilliam mentions earlier in the film that he already had been working on the film for a decade, and I think it would have been nice showing some of those years through drawings or simple interviews.

In spite of that, it was still interesting to the parallel between Gilliams and Cervantes's Don Quixote. His quest to make this film is just like Don Quixote's quest to become a hero, almost impossible.



  1. I have seen the musical on stage which I loved but I have never seen a film about this and don't want to see the musical with Sophia loren. I love Terry Gilliam so I would like to see this movie/documentary

  2. It is an interesting documentary as seeing it at times was soul-crushing into all of the hard work that Gilliam and his team were doing and to be destroyed by all sorts of things. I'm just glad the film is finally going to come out and maybe Gilliam will never have to do that again and there will be no more movies about Don Quixote as attempts to make those films are often cursed or worse, become a bad musical with Peter O'Toole as Don Quixote.

    1. Since both you and Birgit mentioned the musical, I think I'll check it out to see how bad it is.