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The Man Who Killed Don Quixote - Film Review

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by Kiesten McCauley (subscribe)
My early career was in teaching, writing, producing and directing for theatre, comedy and impro shows. Now I'm a professional creative person. Mostly high-end branding, strategy, writing, editing and digital content creation.
Published March 24th 2019
Knights and Flights of Imagination
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Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce are superb.

After going through almost three decades of development hell, Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has finally made it to the big screen. The movie is true to Gilliam's surreal, dystopian and darkly absurd style made famous by films such as Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Fans of the auteur will be pleased with this comedy of errors and its themes.

The tale is that of Toby (Adam Driver), a cynical temperamental film maker. Once a visionary cinema student, money, sex and the Hollywood system have spoiled him. A mysterious gypsy approaches Toby while he's making a movie on Spain, selling him a bootleg DVD of his opus from his student filmmaking days – a black and white re-working of the Don Quixote adventures.

Toby is suddenly inspired to return to the location where he shot the first movie, only to discover the myriad ways in which his first film ruined the lives of those who starred in it. The old man who played Quixote (Jonathan Pryce) has gone insane, believing himself to actually be the character. Angelica, the young girl who played the personification of innocence, is an expensive callgirl for the Russian mob.

A series of accidents and both Toby and the old man's loose grips on reality lead to mishap after mishap. The film becomes more and more surreal as is progresses. As Gilliam so often does in his movies, reality and imagination are blurred, leaving you questioning what is true. There are some extremely trippy moments as the two men rescue damsels in distress, fight giants, and joust against evil knights.

The movie questions reality and perception, one character sums it up perfectly with the remark, "Nothing is real". The humour ranges through slapstick, absurdism and dark comedy with the odd juvenile joke thrown in for good measure. The characters are endearing, odd and beautifully flawed.

"I think the problem with Quixote is that once you get hooked on that character, and what he stands for, you become Quixote," says Terry Gilliam, "You march into the madness, determined to make the world the way you imagine it is. But, of course, it isn't."

man, killed, don, quixote, movie, film, review, terry, gilliam, adam, driver
Adam Driver delivers an outstanding performance as Toby.

The duplicitous art direction presents the world in the way Gilliam imagines it, starkly contrasted against modern urban decay. The art direction wallows in the beauty of both realities. Where other filmmakers might tidy refuse from a desert location, Gilliam lets it sit there. He hasn't had to take us to the future to show dystopian rot. The litter, landfill and ghetto are all stark reminders of poverty and waste in modern society.

The acting is wonderful, especially from Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce who are both superbly committed to their roles. "Working with the actors is the most pleasurable part of making a film," says Gilliam. "I know how to do all the technical and effects stuff, and it doesn't surprise me anymore. Yet the actors always surprise me."

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a wild and imaginative ride that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. It's in selected cinemas from 11 April 2019.

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Our heroes fearlessly battle giants.

See the Film in These Cinemas

Dendy Newtown
Dendy Canberra

Cinema Nova Carlton
Hobart State Theatre

GU Film House
Event Marion

Dendy Coorparoo

Luna Leederville

man, killed, don, quixote, movie, film, review, terry, gilliam, adam, driver
Medieval meets modern in this surreal film.

Side Quest

If you'd like to know more about the development hell this film went through, there's a documentary called Lost in La Mancha which goes into some of the setbacks Gilliam experienced between 1989 and 2002.

That's just the half of it! There were more attempts at producing the movie between 2003 and 2016, with this version of the film finally greenlit, cast and shot late 2016 and early 2017. While the movie featured at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, it's been in distribution limbo since then as Gilliam has had to battle a former producer to have it widely released.

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