Miguel de Cervantes Challenging Adaptations 📚

Richness of story-plot is a common trademark in Miguel de Cervantes’ novels, and this is the reason why renowned producers and directors, both in the past and present, fancy a chance of recreating his works in films and theatres.

Miguel de Cervantes

(1547-1616), Spanish Writer

Before writing one of the greatest literary pieces in ‘Don Quixote’, Miguel de Cervantes had always had a passion for plays and theater, and much of his works then centered around making actable pieces and scripts for broadways, although he never saw a real breakthrough in the industry. This all the more gives credence to the reality of most of his novels and short stories having multiple and interesting story angles.

In his books, Miguel de Cervantes tried to, as much as possible, infuse the everyday issues in culture, politics, and society perturbing the people – mostly of Spanish extraction – in the times in which he existed.

A few of his works, including the evergreen ‘Don Quixote‘, have been adapted into films, however, with ‘Don Quixote’ being a very complicated book full of entwined stories and ideas, it was never going to be easy making a movie off of it, not even for the renown Orson Welles and Rafael Gil.

Rafael Gil’s ‘Don Quixote

Don Quixote’ gets its first real film adaptation in 1947, more than three hundred years after its publication. However, the wait was largely based on the fact that films technologies had not quite developed enough to be used. Still, the waiting times were well worth it as ‘Don Quixote‘ came on to become Spain’s first-ever film with a sound.

Directed by Rafael Gil, the film is praised for staying true to the storylines of the original book written by Miguel de Cervantes, much unlike other adaptations – such as G.W. Pabst’s 1930s redaction – which significantly altered the content of the book, particularly done around the setting and characters.

Shooting ‘Don Quixote‘, in all its complexities, was quite the challenge even for Rafael Gil, the activity which disrupted the entire cinematic industry in all of Spain. ‘Don Quixote‘ became the longest film ever created clocking a massive two hours, twelve minutes and that’s not including interludes.

Gil’s casting was honest to Miguel de Cervantes’ work and featured all characters from the book including the ones edited out by other adaptations like Dorothea and Cardenio who got canned by other directors because they thought their storyline didn’t quite resonate or go in line with the character of ‘Don Quixote‘.

In terms of the quality of actors used, Gil’s made sure to get some of the best in the country, with Rafael Rivelles and Juan Calvo playing ‘Don Quixote‘ and Sancho Panza respectively. Furthermore, Fernando Rey starred as Sampson Carrasco and the more popular Sara Montiel as ‘Don Quixote’s‘ loving niece Antonia. With the movie, Ernesto Halffter ensured a fined composition of the first-ever sound integration in the film as shootings took place on location around the La Mancha neighborhood in Spain.

Two years later, the film entered the United States and it was not nearly as pleasant to stakeholders as it was back in Spain. American directors and producers pinpointed a few content inclusions they thought were long-winded and unnecessary.

All in all, the remaking of ‘Don Quixote‘ in the US underwent tough editing, bringing down the initial two-hour-plus total film time to the more standard hundred and seven minutes of play. At the time, the film performed considerably well in the box office garnering well over ESP 700, 000.

The film was met with mixed reviews as several viewers complained of its long-windedness and unnecessarily stretchered subplots. However, a number of positive reviews came for the fact that the characters stayed true to the original book.

Orson Welles’ Failed Attempt to Remake ‘Don Quixote

Renowned actor Orson Welles was fascinated with Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’ and sought to film a propper, better version of it. Welles wanted to preserve the integrity of Cervantes’ original work but intended to tweak a significant part of it to meet modern standards for films and broadway.

The film, which saw Francisco Reiguera and Akim Tamiroff take up roles as ‘Don Quixote’ and Sancho Panza, had Welles himself playing the role of the narrator as Cervantes did with the original book.

Proper shooting started from 1955, through the 1970s, but the team encountered several challenges some of with bothered by financing, and the sheer inconsistency of Welles’ ideas, as he always seemed to make new changes with every meeting. The work remained unfinished until Welles’ passing in the early 1980s, after which an editor, Jesus Franco, finalized and released the film in 1992.


Is Rafael Gil’s ‘Don Quixote‘ a good movie?

Rafael Gil’s ‘Don Quixote’ adaption is considered one of the best to have done justice to Miguel de Cervantes’ original work, and this is mostly because it stays true to the storyline, the aspect of which becomes violated by other directors.

Are there other movies that draw inspiration from ‘Don Quixote‘?

There are a few available movies that happen to be inspired by Cervantes’ book ‘Don Quixote’, some of them include – Lost in La Mancha (2002), Orson Welles’ Don Quixote (1957), and Ferdinand Horvath’s Concert Art for Disney based on the book.

Is ‘Don Quixote’ considered a hero?

Don Quixote’ is generally seen as a hero for the reason that he travels against the odds to achieve his goals which typically include attempting to save the downtrodden and completing missions and objectives for people he barely knows.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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