Honor de Cavallería, 2006

Albert 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.

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