Depending on your level of film buff-ness, you either have no idea what this movie is, or you know exactly what it is and you’re wondering how it’s possible that I could be writing it up. Short version, is this is a movie that Terry Gilliam has been trying to make for nearly 30 years.
Here’s a brief kinda paraphrased recap of the film’s history. But I highly encourage you to look up the full story. It’s pretty insane. Back in the late 80’s, Terry Gilliam (you may know him from 12 Monkeys or Brazil or Monty Python, the list goes on) had this idea to do a film about Don Quixote. It took him ten years to get the financing. It wasn’t until the early aughts that he finally had everything in place and started filming. Then one of his leads got injured and had to drop out and a flood wiped out the sets and the whole movie was scrapped.
Over the next few years, Gilliam would make another attempt here and there. There were money issues and casting issues. Actors were swapping in and out. Even two who had been cast as Don Quixote passed away before being able to film. I’d hear rumors of it every so often, but usually in the context of “this is never going to happen”.
Then one day, I’m scrolling thru FB and a friend posts a link to buy tickets with some sorta “OMG” status. Wait ,what? Gilliam made it? And it’s done? And it’s being released as a one night only Fathom Event? *click link* *buy tickets* *wait two months*
Adam Driver takes on the role that had Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor and varioius others attached as a film director working in Spain shooting a Don Quixote themed commercial. The shoot’s not going well, and he’s seeking inspiration. A mysterious character gives him a DVD of the student film this director had created 10 years earlier about Don Quixote. He realizes that the small town he filmed in is nearby, so he decides to visit. He finds that many of the townsfolk he worked with are still there, including his lead actor who now believes he truly is Don Quixote. He believes the director is Sancho Panza. Stuff happens and long story short, the two adventure across the countryside and encounter many of the characters and events from Don Quixote.
This film is very Terry Gilliam, for better or worse. On the better, it’s got a sharp sense of humor that is incredibly funny. It’s not a constant laughs type of movie, but the ones that are there are very good ones. It’s also got a great sense of whimsy that only Gilliam can provide. Realities are blurred and you feel like you are living in a fantasy world.
But those blurred realities bring us to the first signature Gilliam pitfall: it doesn’t always make sense. The deeper you get, the harder it is to keep the story straight and follow what’s going on. I eventually had to give up on trying to figure things out, and it turns out there may not have been anything to figure.
The other issue I tend to have with Gilliam’s films that was at play here was the pacing. His films always have a weird flow where it just feels like it’s dragging thru mud, where you’re simultaneously enjoying and wanting to move forward.
Overall, I enjoyed this, but I didn’t love it. I’m not sure that this was worth the long journey it took to get to the screen, but as a film lover, I am very happy that it exists. Gilliam is a treasured filmmaker and it feels good knowing that he finally got this vision realized
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – \m/ \m/ \m/