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Lost in La Mancha is a documentary directed by Terry Gilliam in 2002 as an adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote. Gilliam's first attempt to produce the film failed, resulting in the film's entitlement and independent release. Don Quixote, the main villain, is from La Mancha. The title means that the video depicts incidents that are unsuccessful or do not go as intended, and therefore the cast can be referred to as a documentary. Lost in La Mancha can also be interpreted as a story told by Jeff Bridges. Terry Gilliam wants to create his dream image of Don Quixote by directing a film (Cervantes 23). However, Gilliam does not succeed in his ending because of the character; Don Quixote ends up becoming ill and thus unable to complete the movie. The many complications involved in replacing the character resulting in the cancellation of the film. Later, in 2018, the movie was casted as a documentary allowing the audience to get an understanding of the initial events before the filming started. The paper will discuss ways in which Lost in La Mancha conforms or corrects the traditional image of Don Quixote and outline how genius, creativity, and madness depicted in Lost in La Mancha differs from Cervantes, Don Quixote. Don Quixote has been traditionally interpreted as a character that values the utopia of a just and charitable society; a representation of a community that allows itself to be shaped by dreams and non-materialistic ideals and leaves room for virtuous individual action. However, Lost in La Mancha conforms as well as correct this traditional image of Don Quixote.
Quixotism is a term used to describe the universal characteristic of a visionary action (Cervantes 12). For example, any act of reforms or rebellion is always quixotic. This is because the reformer aims to achieve change by undermining the existing ideas in the institution. Often, most quixotic individuals have been responsible for great achievements and deeds and misdeeds in history. Cervantes holds Don Quixote accountable for the suffering of poor Andrew (Gilliam 1). For this one, Cervantes does not conform to the traditional image of Don Quixote of being just and virtuous. Traditionally, the society was believed to be shaped by dreams and non-materialistic ideals. However, Cervantes is seeing critiquing on the societal class systems that have resulted in the injustice and materialism. However, his standing is not clear on the issue because sometimes he is seen to write in favor and other times he is condemning. For example, Cervantes critiques the social class in the event when lovers from different societal social level struggle to find happiness. The traditional image of Don Quixote non-materialistic and was guided by dreams that were not meant to strive to achieve a particular class status in the society. The class difference in the community affected Don Quixote reality, and thus he is governed by imaginations. Sancho conforms to the traditional image of Don Quixote and believes that even the rich and the poor have the same ending and that is the death (Gilliam 1). Thus, Lost in La Mancha corrects the views of Don Quixote and erases the class differences that can bring injustice in the society.
Moreover, Lost in La Mancha corrects the image of Don Quixote. Traditionally the society was viewed as just and charitable. The individuals are materialistic and never virtuous. For example, Sancho is loyal to Don Quixote for individual interests and self-gain. He follows Don Quixote to gain riches. However, depending on the situation, Sancho changes his motives and Cervantes seems to confirm with the idea of having a charitable society as was the traditional image. This is when Sancho develops sympathy and shows great care to wounded Don Quixote (Cervantes 50). Also, Cervantes conforms to a once just society when the characters in the film always made fun of Don Quixote madness. This is a commentary that people should treat each other justly in the community. Moreover, Cervantes does not give his moral judgment on Maritomes. Despite her being physically unappealing, she takes lovers out of her generous nature (Cervantes 75). Maritomes provides comfort to the weary individuals, and this is considered as an act of charity and virtue that are critical elements of the traditional image of Don Quixote. In this line, Lost in La Mancha conforms to the Don Quixote.
Moreover, just as the characters in the film did not make a joke of Don Quixote's madness, the same way the society should treat members who have a disadvantage in the community to uphold justice and fairness. The image of the madness blurs Quixote's thinking into fantasy and reality and draws no difference between them. Many characters in the film are looking for the honor which is often associated with social class. The poor ones care about receiving recognition more than the rich ones. Don Quixote is consumed in need of becoming an honorable knight, and this leads him to trouble. In this case, Cervantes corrects the traditional image of Quixote that encourages the room for virtuous growing. On the contrast, the author conforms to the image of the Don Quixote through the use of Dorothea, a character whose worry about personal honor brings her happiness (Gilliam 1).
Don Quixote madness helps him embark on his quest for justice. However, one can question whether Don Quixote was mad or was pretending. His madness is key to the development of the story as well as the film. The image of the madness blurs Quixote’s thinking into fantasy and reality and draws no difference between them. The seeking of justice and truth requires strong heroes who have an internal vision to see through imaginations and reality. An example is Don Quixote who defies institutions taken for granted to exemplify that they are destructive to the individuals (Cervantes 127). Furthermore, his madness enables him to see dowdy prostitutes as ladies of quality by responding kindly to his greetings. Don Quixote has a vision for a just society that is not ruled by discrimination and injustices. The author seems to conform to the traditional image of the character in the Lost in La Mancha.
Don Quixote genius nature enables the director of the film to conform to the idea of a charitable society. The knight would get assistance to undress and with his meals. The helping power of the nation would be interpreted as the transformed outward identity to agree with the ideal image of society. Quixotism to be in line with a charitable society can be defined as the willpower to maintain non-materialistic ideals. For instance, Don Quixote succeeds through illusions and eventually has to face it and die. The creativity and genius nature of Cervantes enables him to explore the complexities of fantasy in quest of truth and justice. Through his character development, he brings the idea of a madman seeing the truth in extreme clarity and argues that the individuals in our society today must be able to look at the distortions in society such as injustice (Cervantes 201). The question of justice becomes evident between superior powers and their weaker adversaries. For instance, poor Andrew is beaten by his master because of his carelessness while herding the master's sheep; Don Quixote argues that the superior looks for an excuse just to get out of paying his wages and therefore he is a lair (Gilliam 1). He, thus, calls for justice to be administered to make things right with each other in the society. Besides, Lost in La Mancha employs a lot of creativity. At an abstract level, Cervantes applies little exercises that are made to investigate the issue of justice. For example, he uses the character of Sancho solving a dispute regarding a person crossing a bridge and a woman who claims she was raped (Cervantes 281). This is to show that, the society should look for creative ways of resolving and settling disputes among the members that are just and truthful.
The film can be characterized as quixotic. Throughout the documentary, it is clear that the idea of making it was unrealistic. The lack of resources to film and other roadblocks towards its production can be likened by the character, Don Quixote whose views do not result in the way he sees them in his mind and nobody understands his passion and vision. He seems to live unrealistic and an illusional life. Lost in La Mancha and Don Quixote film can be related to that things were unsuccessful for both Gilliam and Don Quixote making the work idealistic but unrealistic.
Cervantes, Miguel. The Life and Exploits of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Vol. 2. Spain: J. & B. Williams, 1828.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Dir. Terry Gilliam. Perf. Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. 2018.
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