Lost in La Mancha

Poster for Lost in La Mancha

Spring 2004 Edge series

Sunday, March 14, 2004 at 7:00pm

Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS

Directed by


Rated 14A · 1h 29m

“Making a film is essentially about two things: belief and momentum.” – Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam first dreamt of making a film based on Don Quixote soon after completing the wonderfully zany The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. At that time, he was suffering from what he has called “PMS” (Post Munchausen Syndrome), the fallout from the notorious 1989 production that cemented his reputation as a uncontrollable filmmaker. The proposed film would be called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and would tell the story of an arrogant ad executive (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands) who mysteriously stumbles into seventeenth-century Spain and meets Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort, The Man On The Train). After a decade of development, production began in October 2000 – and it was a fiasco. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary, Lost in La Mancha, follows Gilliam’s doomed dream project from the final stages of pre-production through the first days of actual filming. Conveying a sense of the film’s potential, Lost in La Mancha is also a catalogue of crises: NATO jets buzzing over a seventeenth-century set; absent and injured star actors; fragile financing involving companies in England, Spain, France and Germany; and, underscoring the biblical proportions of it all, on the third day it rained – heavily. Watching Gilliam struggle with the problems of making a “studio-type” film with a relatively modest budget of $32 million, Lost in La Mancha also serves as a compelling study of the clash between Hollywood’s star-driven mode of production and a European model that serves the director. “It’s a heavy film for European shoulders,” producer René Cleitman ruefully suggests, noting the $5 million price tag of the average French film. Ultimately, Gilliam finds a soulmate in Quixote, a figure living by romantic ideals in a utilitarian society. “He’s got to be sad and pathetic,” the director suggests, “because it’s all in his mind.” Lost in La Mancha beautifully captures the heartbreaking divide between a filmmaker’s obsessions and the pragmatic realities of motion picture production.

“Some films end with a whimper; this one banged into a stone wall.” – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

“Gilliam himself is a joy to behold. His wit stays sharp even as his fortunes dull, and the conditions that conspire against him only prove the mettle in our man of La Mancha.” – Rick Groen, The Globe And Mail

“Records an accident while it’s happening, revealing a situation that makes you laugh again and again while weeping, metaphorically at least, for the sheer frustration of it all.” – Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“Captures one of the wildest, most heartbreaking episodes in Gilliam’s career.” – Edward Guthmann, The San Francisco Chronicle