Few films have had as troubled a production history as Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote film with Johnny Depp to star in Gilliam’s first attempt before the film collapsed due to various catastrophes that included serious illness for its star, financial irregularities and finally the sets being swept away in a flood. A passion project for the director he’s spent the subsequent 25 years trying to make a film of the famed Spanish story and now we finally have a sort of version of the classic novel with The Man who Killed Don Quixote. All seems straight forward as the misguided knight battles a monster with giant arms despite Sancho, his serf, pointing out that it’s a windmill that drags Quixote into the air on one of its sails only for the scene to be revealed as part of a film being shot by an arrogant director (Adam Driver) regarded as a genius by the fawning folk around him and that he regards with utter disdain.
Dissatisfied with life and troubled by an increasingly shambolic shoot he finds a bootleg dvd copy of his award winning student film of the Don Quixote story where he use local Spanish villagers as his cast including a cobbler Jonathan Pryce in the lead role and a young waitress with whom he was smitten. With Driver as the genius but conflicted director there’s something a little autobiographical about the film which Gilliam also co-wrote and his director wanders off from the shambles of the shoot and comes across the cobbler he cast years ago who now believes that he really is Don Quixote with the same obsessive conviction that he shares with Amanda Holden who believes herself to be an actress. And it’s Pryce’ Don Quixote who comes to Driver’s rescue when being whisked away by the local police having been framed by his producer who caught him in his wife’s hotel room.
Having escaped from the police the pair travel on horseback through modern day Spain on an increasingly surreal and disconnected from reality road trip that’s a bit like pony trekking through the mind of Joey Essex. Like most film productions the locations become tourist spots for film fans but what Driver finds is that his acclaimed student film has left a trail of destruction through the lives of its real life villager’s he cast. Pryce’s cobbler has had a complete meltdown believing he now is Don Quixote, another cast member is dead and his waitress is now love lorn and caught up in a loveless and abusive relationship.
Gilliam’s eye for the surreal is still evident here as is his Pythonesque taste for the grimly grotesque and the film grows increasingly, though intentionally, chaotic and those wanting a linear narrative are unlikely to enjoy the ever more shambolic proceedings especially in the 3rd act as the film merges fact with fiction with fantasy with an emerging love story as Driver , who here looks like Keanu Reeves, and his obsessive behavior as he traipses round with a bewildered old man on a horse would see them both sectioned. The Killing of Don Quixote is unlikely to convert new fans to Gilliam’s work and this is his third film dealing with a main character with mental health issues after The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys which many will argue was his last truly commercial film. It’s been five years since Gilliam’s last film and he is eighty years old this year and this may well be his last film but at least after 25 years he has finally made it.
Here’s The Man who killed Don Quixote trailer…….