Title: Lost in La Mancha
Release Date: 30 August 2002
Director: Keith Fulton | Louis Pepe
Production Company: IFC Films
Following up on rewatching Hearts of Darkness recently, I had to revisit my other favorite Filmmaking Fiasco documentary, Lost in La Mancha. This film documents director Terry Gilliam’s attempt to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote on location in Spain in 2000. Gilliam’s movie, then starring Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort, and Vanessa Paradis, was the most expensive film project financed entirely within Europe. From the start, this film production is on a knife’s edge and needs everything to go right to keep the filming on time on on budget.
Things go very wrong. Location shooting is marred by NATO jets flying overhead and a severe thunderstorm that causes flash flooding that damages the set and equipment. But the biggest problem is when Rochefort suffers a herniated disc and is not well enough to return to filming. The insurers and the investors pull the plug and production on the film ceases. The final sequences of the film are heartbreaking to watch, especially since the film that was shot looks like it would be pretty good.
Much as Francis Ford Coppola is compared to Kurtz in Hearts of Darkness, Gilliam is compared with Don Quixote. The comparison may seem trite, but it really does fit. Apart from this being a good fiasco story, Lost in La Mancha is also one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries of filmmaking. It’s really fascinating to see all the people and moving parts that need to work together in order to make a film, or in this case, to fail to make a film.