Honour of the Knights (Honor de Cavalleri)Albert Serra(Sp 2008)Lluis Carbo; Lluia Serrat.
Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema (Newcastle AV festival)15 March 2012; ticket price £5.00
Touched by immanence
Honour of the Knights (HK) is about the immanence of vision.I note that some critics have commented that Serra’s (AS) interpretation of Don Quixote depicts an aimless rambling.But I don’t think this is the case, it is simply that the film’s actual movement is not so much upon the earthly domain rather it is on the metaphysical or celestial plane.
HK is grounded in the contrasting physicality of the two principle actors. The squire Sancho presents as a mass, a mountain a colossal being of the earth, a man of the clay.That he can move at all seems in defiance of gravity, an act of will to move when his physical nature seems to demand immobility. Yet when he moves he has a lightness of foot, a nobility of demeanour and when in water the effortless motion of the cetacean.The knight is a being almost without body.A body that is ethereal even when strapped into his metal cuirasses and pauldrons. It is as if he were not there, an immaterial being locked into the material. With his whitened hair, pale skin, white chemise, Quixote,a shimmering luminescence.
And there is no doubt as to who leads who follows. The earth bound, head bowed squire follows the knight who head upmoves upward released into his vision.AS takes Cervantes tale and extracting a critical motif, makes it his own. AS recasts Don Quixote as a fable from an age now past where spirit guided the body. Not always successfully perhaps, but nevertheless a fabled time when the desires of the body ultimately cededprimacy to the yearnings of the spirit.A fable of course, but in an era defined by the over arching imperative of consumption and the circuits that amplify individual desires, it’s a shock to be presented, even in fabulous form,with a simple statement of another possibility, another way of being.
Quixote is of course moving, and moving with huge acceleration towards death.It is not a death that is oppressive of life.It’s a death that is at one with life.Death thatQuixote equates with the oneness ofGod.God is all creation in immanent form.To die is simply to experience this oneness.Quixote is a becoming more luminous as he moves through the keys of nature into vision.It is vision that attracts Quixote and vision is the metaphysical gravity that attracts him upwards pulling him out of his body out of the skin bones and white chemise, that contain but no longer delimit him.
Theworld is an evil place corrupted by actions of men but the chivalric calling transcends it.As Quixote moves on his journey he realises the presenting power of water, the presenting power of the trees of the moon and the sky. Their intensity signifies the nature of the world and of man,as being God given.It is an insight that is mystical whether in the Sufi Christian or Hindu tradition, where life is union.
HK is realised with defining simplicity by AS.The film comprises only of exteriors which are shot both day and night without lighting.The shots sequences and dialogues are refined to simple gesture both of body and speech. The editing decisions are never based on match cutting or continuity in reverse shots, but seem to have been made to affirm the integrity of ‘the moment’ whether it be Sancho’s bodily integrity or Quixote’s translucent integrity as his voice affirms the presence of God and his body and face reflect the affect of this realisation.
I think for AS Sancho follows Quixote because he realises a lackinga void within himself.Sancho does not perhaps understand the transformed state of mind of Quixote.He does not understand or share Quixote’s vision of immanence of life and death. Sancho does understand that Quixote’s vision is something that is important and that if he can be of use to Quixote then this will have been of worthwhile importance.Perhaps in time Sancho will understand things better. Or not.But for now he can be useful in an ultimate sense of the term, helping a man to die well.