Terry Gilliam’s latest release is a passion project twenty nine years in the making. The result? A jumbled mess…
While filming his latest commercial in rural Spain, disillusioned advertising director Toby (Adam Driver) stumbles across his university film that he made ten years earlier. His commercial and his student film each feature the classic characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, with the latter filmed in a small village not far from Toby’s current location.
Driven by nostalgia, Toby travels back to the town and bumps into Javier (Jonathan Pryce), a shoe cobbler who was cast in his film as Don Quixote. Javier now believes himself to be Don Quixote, and believing Toby to be Sancho Panza, the two embark on an adventure, mimicking the script of Toby’s student film.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (TMWKDQ) took director Terry Gilliam twenty-nine years to make, and despite the numerous setbacks, he continued to persevere to produce a film that is both zany and peculiar. However, unlike other films of his, such as The Fisher King or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, TMWKDQ falls too far down the rabbit hole, resulting in a film that is nonsensical to the end.
TMWKDQ covers a lot of topics, but never really delivers on any. At the beginning, the film feels like it’s heading down the path of a disenfranchised director rediscovering his passion for his work. Upon reconnecting with Javier, it then starts to study the impact of filmmaking on small communities. As the film progresses, it becomes difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not, with the lines between dreams and reality becoming increasingly blurred.
More annoyingly, the characters beautifully thought out, and more importantly, human. I say annoying because without them it would be very easy to write this film off. Driver plays the egomaniac advertising director to a tee. His character arc is perfectly written, and it’s this evolution that nicely rounds out the film at the end.
Javier’s turn from simple shoe cobbler to completely embracing his ‘role’ as Don Quixote brings an element of black humour to the film, but also allows for a real look into mental illness. While the film doesn’t draw great attention to this issue, it does show the exact moment when Javier became convinced he is Don Quixote, and his confusion when others don’t take him seriously.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is ultimately a labour of love from Gilliam, but like any piece of art that takes twenty-nine years to complete, it’s easy for the project to lose its way.
I spent the entire film waiting for Toby to wake from a dream, and although this would have been a completely clichéd ending, I found myself disappointed when this wasn’t the case.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is available in Australian cinemas from April 11
Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment and © Diego Lopez Calvin, Tornasol Films, Carisco Producciones.