I managed to track down a hard to find DVD of this Spanish made documentary about David Lean’s dying wish to make a screen adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo. Lean believed it would be his defining work, the pinnacle of his career.
My excitement at getting hold of this DVD was tempered by sadness at how everything conspired to prevent David Lean from realising his dream. Lean’s widow Sandra, along with Steven Spielberg and others involved with the project, tell the heartbreaking story of endless delays and false starts. The most moving account of all came from Georges Corraface, who was set to play Nostromo. The surviving screen tests show how brilliant Corraface would have been in this role.
Those closest to Lean felt the constant frustrations and disappointments hastened his death. Fellow director John Boorman visited David Lean days before Lean’s death. They reminisced about their lives and their films. As John Boorman was leaving, David Lean said: ‘I hope I get better and that I’m able to make Nostromo. You see, I’m just beginning to think I might be getting the hang of filmmaking.’
As his two Dickens adaptations Great Expectations and Oliver Twist testify, David Lean was the undisputed master of the literary adaption. Having read the script and heard Lean describe some of the key scenes, I am convinced that Nostromo is the greatest film never made.