ETHICS,

HUMAN RIGHTS

AND FILM

IN THE CONTEXT OF A PANDEMIC
[ watching and reflecting on movies and television series in quarantine ]

Don Quixote [1992]

 

Orson Welles

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Don Quixote is an unfinished film projected written, co-produced and directed by Orson Welles. The film, edited by Jesús Franco and released in 1992, does not include all the original material. In fact, the six minutes that Giorgio Agamben refers have been removed from the film. It is a silent sequence filmed and edited by Welles himself in the mid-1950s. Set in a movie theater, it features children's actress Patty McCormack, Francisco Riguera as Don Quixote, and Akim Tamiroff as Sancho Panza. We offer below the famous six minutes, and Agamben's commentary.

[ Readings ]

"The most beautiful six minutes in the history of cinema"

 

Sancho Panza enters the cinema of a provincial town. He is looking for Don Quixote and finds him sitting apart, staring at the screen. The auditorium is almost full, the upper circle—a kind of gallery—is packed with screaming children. After a few futile attempts to reach Don Quixote, Sancho sits down in the stalls, next to a little girl (Dulcinea?) who offers him a lollipop. The show has begun, it is a costume movie, armed knights traverse the screen, suddenly a woman appears who is in danger. Don Quixote jumps up, draws his sword out of the scabbard, makes a spring at the screen and his blows begin to tear the fabric. The woman and the knights can still be seen, but the black rupture, made by Don Quixote's sword, is getting wider, it inexorably destroys the images. In the end there is nothing left of the screen, one can only see the wooden structure it was attached to. The audience is leaving the hall in disgust, but the children in the upper circle do not stop screaming encouragements at Don Quixote. Only the little girl in the stalls looks at him reprovingly.

What shall we do with our fantasies? Love them, believe them—to the point where we have to deface, to destroy them (that is perhaps the meaning of the films of Orson Welles). But when they prove in the end to be empty and unfulfilled, when they show the void from which they were made, then it is time to pay the price for their truth, to understand that Dulcinea—whom we saved—cannot love us. 

 Giorgio Agamben

 Profanations (Anagrama, 2005)