Don Quichotte (1965) - full transcript

This is the frontispiece of the
English edition from 1617.

And this is the first depiction of
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Picasso's Don Quixote from 1955,
one of the more recent ones.

The most famous one, however,
by Gustav Doré, dates back to 1863.

Although these three portrayals differ,
they agree upon the essentials.

Here's what Cervantes says:

The age of our Hidalgo
flirted with fifty.

He was of sturdy constitution,
only a bit thin, lean of face.

Furthermore, he was tall
with wrinkled arms and legs,

a shrunken face and somewhat
crooked eagle nose

with a large and
droopy moustache.



There isn't a single word
about a beard.

Rather an omission than an
actual proof of beardlessness.

In fact, there is a passage in
the second book where we can see him

having his beard washed
by the dutchess's maids

in a joyful atmosphere
instead of having it shaved.

This scene, along with
the fashion of the time

and the portrait of
the author himself

speak in favour of a
bearded Don Quixote.

Let's follow the chronology:

These popular engravings by
Jacques Lagniet, which date from 1640,

are seen as legitimate
predecessors of comics,

the only difference being the text in
form of a comment instead of a dialog.

On the top of the engraving, we read:
Here's a present day knight

being taken care of by his host
and two maidens.



What stands the most is the
burlesque character of the situation,

like this scene in which the host helps
Don Quixote by pouring the drink

into his mouth through a pipe because
our knight refuses to remove his helmet.

On the other hand, there are
some shocking imprecisions,

for example, Sancho being represented
as tall as his master.

However, we will soon discover
the difference between the two.

These English illustrations from 1687

are much more refined
than the previous ones

and focus more on the setting:

Don Quixote being promoted
to a knight before an inn

Don Quixote tilting
at windmills

Don Quixote takes a flock of sheep
for a marching army

Don Quixote saves
a convoy of prisoners

And here is Don Quixote
in an 18th century painting

by Charles-Antoine Coypel,

a history painter appointed by
the Gobelins Manufactory in 1716

to make a series of
twenty-five tapestry cartoons,

later often reproduced
by various artists.

Coypel's influence was apparent
throughout the century.

The only ones who resisted his spell
were individualists like Natoire,

another author of tapestry cartoons,

Gillot, sharing a similar
style with Watteau,

Fragonard, with his
characteristic hatching

and finally Goya, who sadly left us
with a single drawing:

Don Quixote in his Study.

And since we're in Spain,

let's have a quick glance
at these drawings,

which date back to 1780.

What's most typical about them,
apart from the Spanish setting,

is a tendency towards liberation

which paved the way
for the 19th century art.

Now, let's cast some light
on the French romantics:

in Devéria's work from 1821

or Charlet's from 1830...

the lines are evidently
getting more simple and bold,

almost on the brink
of caricature,

yet failing to successfully
portray a character.

In 1853, a step forward was
made by the painter Decamps.

Here, the duo of Sancho Panza
and Don Quixote

forms an indivisible whole.

The knight and his squire

oppose and complement
each other

similar to two geometric shapes:

a line and a circle.

One represents roundness,
the other straightness.

Tony Johannot will base
his interpretation

on the very same principle.

Everything is put to the service
of portraying Don Quixote

as a sharp, angular and
scraggy character.

The main objective was to exploit
Don Quixote's skinniness

in a comical manner.

Staying true to the text,
the depiction points out

the essence of his structure
along with his funny side.

Here's an example:

the 17th and 18th century editions

often showed a scene
with Don Quixote

standing unstably on his horse

while the skillful Maritorne
holds him with a rope

from the inn window.

The moment of loss of
balance is presented...

when Rocinante slips away,
leaving our hero hanging.

Or maybe, it's better to show
the aftermath of a comic situation,

rather than show it happening.

It's the same scene
Tonny Johannot

used to express the lengthiness
of Don Quixote's body.

However, thanks to Gustav Doré,

the image of Don Quixote
has changed forever.

Don Quixote is finally
taken seriously

as the puppet makes way
for the thinker.

Furthermore, certain similarities
with Christ are not to be neglected.

This new incarnation
introduces the pure thought

which goes far beyond any
material contingency

while feeding off
its own chimeras.

Coming down to earth is often
accompanied by humiliation,

cruelty and mockery.

The landscape regains its importance,

becoming both fantastical
and mysterious.

It's unclear whether these rocks,
these mountains and horizons

belong to the real world or
to the hero's imagination.

Daumier continued his search
for allegory in 28 drawings made

in the final years of his career,
more precisely from 1860 to 1870.

Behold the work of
the greatest painter

who has ever dealt
with this subject!

No room for anecdotes.

Everything is expressed
in a game of lines and forms.

The comic side of
Don Quixote vanishes

while the idealist kicks in.

This can best be seen in this caricature
accompanied by the following words:

Here's the one who's
always brave, kind,

generous, imprudent...

the one who gave up
his spear for a quill

in order to confront the banalities
offending his noble soul.

Salvador Dali, whose resemblance
to Cervantes' hero was remarkable,

was the only artist
in the last century

who portrayed Don Quixote free
from the influence of the previous

works by Doré or Daumier.

Choosing the road less travelled,
Don Quixote lets the fool overshadow

the thinker and goes on spinning
like a spinning top, which,

if you take a closer look,
reveals an entire army.

However, this madness
is called paranoia...

but that's only an introduction
to a form of obsessive criticism

which the painter identifies with the
process of the artistic creation itself.

The folly of carefully calculated
shots from arquebus...

as well as filling
rhinoceros's horns with ink...

is nothing compared to
the fruits of Dali's rigor

brought to the point of
extreme meticulousness.

It's clear from these examples

to what extent painting has enriched
our knowledge of Cervantes' novel.

On the other hand,
it also impoverishes it,

making us forget about
the surrounding lively crowds

for the sake of the main characters
and the landscape.

Only the early illustrators

knew how to depict
the crowd with precision.

Everything about this crowd
is important.

Every secondary role

has its purpose.

Every character our hero
crosses his path with

helps us understand him better

and locate him in the
material (spatial) context.

Every time a certain character
appears on a higher ground

means he's suffering from a more
severe form of madness.

Let's take Cardenio's example
because an unrequited love

made him insane and
drove him to the mountains...

or that of shepherdess Marcele

who values her own freedom
to the point of cruelty,

the very same cruelty that led
a young man kill himself.

Taking her reasons into account,
Cervantes doesn't miss the opportunity

to reveal her impossible striving for
purity also known as angelism.

The additional stories from
the first part of Don Quixote

are not only digressions but
also variations on the theme of

the power of obsession.

The story of The Curious Impertinent
speaks of Anselmo,

a young man from Florence,
who, like Don Quixote,

suffers from hypertrophied
imagination

manifesting itself through
pathological jealousy.

In order to be sure, he asks
his best friend Lothario

to test the fidelity
of his wife Camilla.

Lothario unwillingly
accepts and eventually

wins her heart.

To remove all doubt,

she plots a scene

in which she fakes
her own suicide

while Lothario is trying
to seduce her

with Anselmo hiding
behind a curtain.

And he who doubted everything,

suddenly believed everything.

Another purpose
of these digressions

is to show that reality

has in store more
surprises than fiction.

While Dulcinea appears as
an ugly, vulgar peasant girl,

a complete opposite to the person
from her admirer's imagination,

the women Don Quixote encounters

are very beautiful,

although that's not
always apparent

from the engravings.

Take the example of Dorothy who,
disguised as a shepherd,

washes her feet in a brook.

It's well known that Cervantes
was held prisoner for six years

by the Barbarians. He attempted
an escape several times,

which almost led him to the gallows.

The story of Zoraida,
a young Moorish woman

who disobeys her father's will and
runs away with a brave christian slave,

is not more fantastic than
the life of the author himself.

Finally, the second part of the book,
written ten years later,

leads us to a disquieting thought

that no one can escape the virus
of Don Quixote's madness.

The hero is no longer confronted
with harsh reality,

but with an artificial universe...

like when Don Quixote
encountered actors in the cart,

taking their masks and costumes

for their real characters...

or when he unsuccessfully tried
to provoke this gracious lion...

or even when he slaughtered
Master Peter's puppets

taking them for Moors,
falling victim to a perfect illusion

which would deceive even
the shrewdest of spectators.

The barren landscapes from the beginning
are transformed into a festive decor.

Our lonely, gloomy Don Quixote
puts away his armour

and joins a company
hungry for divertissement,

which would later be
heavily criticized by Pascal.

This company jealously
keeps the grain of folly,

paradoxically praised by Erasmus
a hundred years earlier.

One of the most absurd scenes is the one
with a wooden horse (Clavileno).

Don Quixote and Sancho are tricked

into believing they are actually
flying on the horse

while the assistants are simulating
rushing wind and fire

with special requisites.

Finally, everything is going
our hero's way

after he's confronted
with the image of himself.

He's no longer striving to be
Lancelot or Amadis

but Don Quixote.

Here lies the unique depth
of this masterpiece

in which reality and fiction
mirror each other,

endlessly exchanging their reflections.

In the final chapter, Don Quixote is
defeated by the Knight of the White Moon

on a beach in Barcelona.

This scene leaves us with
an unsettling feeling

not merely caused by
the hero's peaceful death.

Lastly, a few words
about Sancho Panza

whose alleged wisdom
isn't but foolishness.

He's a simple rather
than a cultivated man,

but unlike Don Quixote,
his tragedy lies

in turning into an idealist
towards the end of the novel

and paying the inevitable price
for having such illusions,

which is particularly evident
in the bullying scene.

Another case of bullying, however,
this time in a figurative manner,

comes in a scene in which
Sancho wakes up only to find out

his beloved donkey got stolen
by Gines de Pasamonte.

He follows his master only out of
greed and hunger for governance.

At some point, though,
the locals name him governor,

only to make fun of him.

They play a thousand pranks on Sancho,

his table is magnificently set,
but as soon as he starts eating,

doctor Pedro Recio
gets the table cleared...

or when they lock him in an armour in
order to protect him from a fake mutiny.

And yet, despite all the obstacles,

he successfully fulfils
his duties of a judge,

while, thanks to his earthly wisdom,

he keeps outsmarting the thugs
better than anyone else.

On all these 18th century engravings

we continue to discover
a baroque universe

composed of various
symbols and illusions.

If it's true that this universe poses
a threat to the image of Don Quixote,

it still doesn't come
without a positive side,

revealing new aspects
of an illusion

which, for Cervantes,
at the same time represents

the source of and the cure
for all our misfortunes.

Reason will eventually deliver
our hero from madness,

although we are
perfectly aware that

there is reason in madness

and madness in reason.

The ambiguity which
underlies the novel

cannot be easily perceived
at first sight.

This novel should not be identified
with various interpretations it inspired

as it was often the case.

It's a book... one of the
greatest in fact...

and it should be read.

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