The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
In Cinemas Now
Terry Gilliam's long-gestating adventure comedy adapted from Miguel de Cervantes's classic novel. A cynical advertising man (Adam Driver), finds himself trapped in the outrageous delusions of an old Spanish shoe-maker (Jonathan Pryce) who believes himself to be Don Quixote.
Former Monty Python Gilliam started work on the film in 1989 but failed to get it across the line, most famously with his abandoned 1998 production - the subject of the excellent documentary Lost in La Mancha. Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and Jack O'Connell have all been attached to star over the years. Reportedly, it was Adam Driver's interest in the role that finally helped secure funding for the film.
- Bay Of Plenty
- Hawke's Bay
- Nelson-Tasman Bay
- Taupo-Central Plateau
- West Coast
- Terry Gilliam('The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus', 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', 'Brazil')
Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Festival & Independent
Rating: M Violence & offensive language
Spain, UK, France, Portugal
Terry Gilliam’s latest announces itself as a movie “25 years in the making and unmaking”, a self-congratulatory bit of text alluding to its tortured path to the screen. The results could well be the director’s best film in a few decades, but that’s more an indicator of his late-career drop off than any great quality here.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is often visually stunning (it’s definitely a huge improvement over the blandness of Gilliam’s last film The Zero Theorem), but it’s also characteristically exhausting, and after an enthusiastic start, an air of mediocrity settles over proceedings.
The first 30 minutes operate as a sort of Hollywood satire as Adam Driver’s director helms a Don Quixote-themed commercial in Spain. When he tracks down the star of a student film he shot years earlier (also about Quixote), reality and fantasy start to merge, and Gilliam dials the energy up to ‘shrill’.
Jonathan Pryce plays the actor from Driver’s film, who’s become convinced that he is the fictional Spanish knight. He and Driver are hugely likable actors, but they’ve clearly been instructed to go BIG here, with patience-testing results. Gilliam characters can be so outré they tip over from charming into repellent, so it’s testament to Driver in particular that he remains watchable. We can only guess how the originally-cast Johnny Depp would have fared in the role, but ‘insufferable’ is a safe guess.
Once the usual abundance of whimsy kicks in, things get bogged down in Gilliam’s usual tics: Dutch angles pile up and actors yell ADR’d dialogue over each other. The film has some big ideas about storytelling, but they’re increasingly vague. It’s all very nice to look at, but it’s sloppy, and ultimately unsatisfying.
Los Angeles Times
NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)
Much like Duke Nukem Forever, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is not really worth the wait
Having only gotten into the movie reviewing schtick recently, the opening words meant little to me. “And now … after 25 years in the making … and unmaking” seemed an odd way to start a film, but minimal research afterwards will send you down the rabbit-hole with obstacles that this film has had to overcome since it's inception in 1989 (yes, this film has been in the works since the year I was born, which is probably why I don't remember it).
Unable to secure funding, sets and equipment destroyed through flooding, actors lost through sickness, not able to get insurance, and cancellations have all hampered this project. It is the sort of history and pretence that would leave you with an end-product that is either absolutely mind-alteringly brilliant, or catastrophically abysmal. And yet, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is neither.
Starring Adam Driver (a.k.a. Kylo Ren from Star Wars) Jonathan Pryce (the High Sparrow from Game of Thrones) as the main protagonist Toby and the man who believes he is the titular Don Quixote respectively, this is without a doubt, a Terry Gilliam film. It takes mere minutes before you get that Monty Python vibe, where everything feels like a series of skits and sketches loosely held together by the two main characters. What is really missing though, is a sense of cohesion.
In the opening scenes alone, it is a cobblepot of actions and dialogue that is rather ineffective at telling you exactly what is going on. With conflicting inputs from a large number of characters, it's altogether difficult to know where to place your focus.
As the film progresses, however, we start to see how Toby's past has a profoundly large effect on the area, and as his own career had flourished, both Toby and this shoe-maker have been caught up in their own parallel delusions of grandeur. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote doesn't flirt with fantasy, the lines of reality and fantasy are fully merged and twisted to create a vision of a world full of innocence, naivety, and simple justice. The difficulty to discern between what is real, and what is not, actually becomes a barrier to fully enjoying the film. The level of uncertainty prevents full immersion into the story, as the narrative is not trustworthy.
Adam Driver has yet to impress me. And this is another case of his character appearing petulant and not overly likeable. Jonathan Pryce, on the other hand, was exceptional, and you could see that there was not a single moment of Jonathan Pryce. Every moment was Don Quixote.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote puts together a batch of fun little scenes, with its actors and actresses taking on many roles in the film. Much like if you were to watch an episode of Saturday Night Live as if it were all a single storyline, there is a lot of confusion that is explained away eventually under the guise of delusion, but the payoff is not really there.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is quizzical. After taking 30 years to reach fruition, it is in itself the lovechild of reality and delusion. An intriguing watch, but perhaps down to the age of the script, the comedy just isn't there. I am not laughing at the misunderstandings of a confused man. I pity a man that has been taken advantage of.