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December 17, 2006

Honor de Cavallería, 2006

quixotic.gifAlbert Serra's understated first feature, Honor de Cavallería loosely channels the melancholic wanderlust of such contemporary, dedramatized road films as Marc Recha's Days of August and Lisandro Alonso's Los Muertos to create an organic, rigorous, and often frustrating, but indelible and penetrating chronicle of the interiority and profound alienation of picaresque adventure. A de-romanticization of knighthood, chivalry, and heroic myth - and in particular, the ambiguity and delusive rationalization of the "noble quest" that propelled the Crusades - Serra's vision of the iconic Don Quixote de La Mancha (as personified by Lluís Carbo) eschews the abstraction of a loveable dreamer, eccentric protagonist, and tragic hero and hopeless romantic of the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra novel for the corporeality (and terrestriality) of a Samuel Beckett-inspired, moribund, existential antihero, transforming the self-destructive co-dependency of Waiting for Godot's directionless traveling companions, Vladimir and Estragon, into a chronicle of the dislocated, atemporal journey of a fragmented, helpless, and willful aging horseman unaware of the absurdity of his situation and an obliging, devoted friend, Sancho Panza (Lluís Serrat) who enables his unattainable, pathetic delusion. Filmed using natural lighting in long takes, often in medium and long shot, the film is composed of decentralized, hyperrealist, quotidian sequences reminiscent of Ermanno Olmi's The Tree of Wooden Clogs that underscore the idle passage of time and the vacuity of their noble, but elusive gesture - resting in the shade, surveying the landscape, collective laurels for a wreath, clearing paths, bathing in a lake, and engaging in reinforcing (and regurgitative) hilltop pronouncements on the righteousness of their lonely crusade. So bracing in its vulnerability and dislocation, and achingly transitory in its tactile, crepuscular imagery, Honor de Cavallería subverts the evoked (and unrequited) ideals of the eponymous hero to create a somber, aimless, and provocative meditation on longing, spiritual desolation, impotence, and collective delusion.

Posted by acquarello on Dec 17, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Spanish Cinema Now


I'm glad you could see it finally, was it straining?

The comparison to Waiting for Godot is interesting. But what of it? I wonder if Beckett suits the myth of Don Quixotte... and was the screen "adaptation" of abstract theatre really successful here?
There is not even a kidnapping and a noble cause in Los Muertos, and the slow pace didn't bother me as much as in this one. "Aimless" is the word I would retain from the film. The mundane, rural aimlessness in Los Muertos was more fascinating than the mystical, stoic aimlessness of Honor de Cavalleria.
I didn't find the angle to get into the film other than superficially.

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Dec 18, 2006 6:01 PM | Permalink

Hey Harry, this is one of those situations where I think the context of the program really helped to hone in on the ideas. From the amount of knight-themed films that were in the program, and the popularity of novels based on this time in Spain, I get the impression that, culturally, there is a great love and nostalgia, and also admiration (perhaps even aspiration) for these adventures and epic journeys in Spanish society. What Serra does in the film is really turn this heroic myth upside down to erase any kind of romanticism or exoticism or nobility about this quest. So you don't even get the sympathy factor, the purity of idealism, that Quixote is usually associated with. Instead, you get a broken, possibly senile old man, painfully aware of his mortality, and yet he continues the ritual. In the same way that Waiting for Godot is about the absurdity of continuing on even in the face of nothingness and absence of meaning, Quixote continues on with the ritual only because he's not dead. That's the saddest of all commentaries about the human condition because there's not even the chance of glory, enlightenment, or transcendence associated with it, there's only the rejection of the alternative.

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 18, 2006 7:06 PM | Permalink

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