After what is probably the most spectacular production story in recent film history, Terry Gilliams appears THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE now actually the light of the cinema screen – if only to fail spectacularly. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
The cynical commercial filmmaker Toby (Adam Driver) meets an old Spanish shoemaker (Jonathan Pryce) who thinks he is Don Quixote. The two embark on a series of absurd adventures during which Toby must confront the tragic consequences of a film he made in his youth – a film that forever changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village. Can Toby ever make up for what he did and regain his humanity? Can Don Quixote conquer his madness and prevent his impending death? Or will love overcome all boundaries?
Movie explanation of the ending
Let’s briefly summarize the almost two-decade production history of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”: It all began in 2000, when the “Brazil” director first encountered financing problems and a… had to deal with the sick main character – at that time Jean Rochefort. After just a few days, he put production on hold, whereupon the rights to the film material and the script reverted to a USA insurance company. Three years later and after all legal disputes had been resolved, Gilliam made a second attempt with a smaller budget. This time on board: Robert Duvall, Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor. But despite the reduction in financial resources from 35 million to 20 million, it was not enough to finally get the filming, which was now planned for 2011, rolling again. Pre-production was stopped once again; only to resume it again three years later – in 2014. Instead of Duvall, John Hurt was able to be hired for the role of Don Quixote, but that didn’t get the filming started. Only after several rotations of the cast did Gilliam start working on the film in 2017 with the team that can actually be seen in the film. And despite all the hustle and bustle, we haven’t even included such relatively small details as the destruction of the film set by a storm, the conflicts about rights that arose again after its completion, and the almost unpleasantly funny anecdote about Terry Gilliam, who fell ill shortly before the premiere. Let’s make it short: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” contains one of the most tragicomic curses in film history.
Toby (Adam Driver) is currently filming a film in Spain.
The documentary “Lost In La Mancha”, which was made during the problematic filming with, among others, Johnny Depp, now has cult status and has been nominated for prizes at various film festivals and even won awards. The directing duo of Keith Foulton and Louis Pepe managed to bring the chaos caused by the external circumstances into a form without forcing it into a narrative concept. You can still sense the outrageous production conditions and yet it’s just unbelievably fun to watch Terry Gilliam gradually slipping away from the project on the one hand, while on the other hand he tries to hold it together with sincere passion. The fact that “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival at the beginning of the year is a great triumph from a film history perspective; Just to experience what it’s like to see cinema history before your own eyes, buying a cinema ticket is perhaps even mandatory. But as much as we’re happy that Gilliam’s streak of bad luck has hopefully come to an end (or, as the case may be, will now continue on a new level based on the negative critical reviews), we simply can’t sweep under the rug that the end result is one is much greater chaos than the production history suggests. Be it directorial over-ambitions, narrative extravagances or the loss of all content structures in favor of artistic freedom: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is ultimately just a big hodgepodge of all possible ideas that, after just a few minutes, have overwhelmed you so much that you had difficulty getting through the next two hours.
Explaining what “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is about is the first big hurdle: the focus is on the eccentric director Toby, who, after previously filming a “Don Quixote” film, is now filming again in the area at that time and in the course of his work he slips more and more into a world that doesn’t seem to be quite ours. In addition, Terry Gilliam, who was also responsible for the script, repeatedly jumps back and forth in his narrative perspectives. Sometimes we find ourselves directly on the film set and see how parts of a film work are created before our eyes. At other times we find ourselves in the film itself, which is actually just being made there; and at some point protagonist Toby no longer knows exactly where he actually is. What He knows exactly who he is, a Spanish shoemaker: Don Quixote. This is precisely since Toby once cast him for this exact role in his film. What sounds like a wonderfully crazy game with narrative and meta levels turns into a complete mess in Gilliam’s directing hands. The fact that even the characters in the film themselves no longer know the difference between reality and fiction is almost the most consistent idea. Otherwise, the choice and aimlessness with which Gilliam proceeds here may perhaps be a form of concept, but ultimately it simply ensures that at some point you no longer know what is actually happening in “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. .
Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce) shows Toby the pictures in the book “The Man of La Mancha”.
Now it wouldn’t be the first time that a director leaves his audience in the dark about the world he has imagined until the stylistic anarchy becomes an end in itself, which, as with the visionary David Lynch, can ultimately be enjoyed without any logical order . However, Gilliam does not pack his chaos into an audiovisual guise, but into a visually and acoustically noisy, aggressive and mutually biting shell, which over the course of the lush running time of almost two and a half hours even manages to present the audience with actors as capable as Adam Driver (“Paterson”) because they fit perfectly into the cinematic image with their affected overacting. Whenever the narrative, if one can even speak of one, stalls, Driver and Co. give it another kick in the ass with extensive theatrical monologues towards the next inconsequential minutes of the film. And unfortunately that’s another big problem: apart from aggression, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” simply doesn’t evoke anything in the viewer. Gilliam’s script is neither subtle, funny, nor even dramatic. Any hint of emotion is promptly destroyed by the over-dramatizing actors and in the end all that’s left is a big, cramped nothingness that keeps you wondering about the meaning. It may be that the difficult production conditions over the years have left their mark on the script. If that is actually the case, then “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” would probably best be seen as a snapshot. As a purely fictitious project, however, there are only a lot of individual pieces of the puzzle that don’t form a picture even when put together.
Conclusion: You can tell the absurd origin story of Terry Gilliam’s passion project. Unfortunately, that’s the only positive thing that can be said about this outrageous series of meaningless scenes, in which the story itself no longer plays a role at some point.
“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 27th.