Literature as Spectacle

Don Quichotte (Don Quixote)

Ferdinand Zecca/Lucien Nonguet, Pathé-Frères, France, 1903

Apparently only seven of the 15 tableaux that originally made up this elaborate féerie, an adaptation of Miguel Cervantes’ 17th-century novel, have survived. Of course, Pathé’s new stencil-color process plays a significant role in the spectacle, as in the scene in which the hero’s faithful companion is temporarily enthroned (left). Another impressive cinema-of-attraction device is the composite shot created by in-camera matting. In the opening scene-shot, for example, a portal in the wall of Don Quichotte’s study reveals a parade of heroes whose passage inspires the hero to undertake his own errant adventures (right). Don Quichotte may also be the first surviving Pathé féerie in which shot-scenes are linked not by dissolves, but rather by intertitles. Nonguet (1868-?), who had experience managing crowd scenes on the stage, specialized in historical reconstructions at Pathé.

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