Addled and Gallant


Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Famously thirty years in the making, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, faces its past with a misanthropic wink.

Written and directed by Terry Gillam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Fear and Loathing in Los Vagas) the film has been plagued by disasters of comedic proportion. NATO jets flying over the location during the civil war in Kosovo and sets being swept away in a biblical flood were showcased in the 2002 documentary Lost in la Mancha which chronicled the earlier ill-fated production.

The unfortunate and convoluted history of the film seems prophetic as the story grapples with a television commercial shoot, on location in Spain, that is on the edge of disaster. Toby, the director of the doomed commercial, played by Adam Driver (StarWars: Episode VII, BlacKKKlansman) is spinning out of control.

A financially successful but jaded director, Toby reflects on a past project in which he filmed the story of Don Quixote in an isolated Spanish village, using locals and the idyllic landscape for his low budget student film.

After realising how close he is to the village, Toby returns to find his film has ruined the lives of the people involved. The rest of the film progresses with the interweaving of his reality, his memories of the past and the meta-story of Don Quixote.

The film was a wild ride that felt like it could spin out of control at any minute. It was never clear where the film was heading, as the usual narrative beats were buried under dream sequences and hidden behind luscious storytelling.

Like Gillam’s other work, the story is meta and meandering, with wonderful flourishes and farcical obstacles like the power-hungry, toddler-like Russian oligarch who has come to Spain with lots of cash and the need to be entertained.

The acting was superb. Sir Johnathan Price (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean) steals the show as the cobbler, trapped in his film persona of Don Quixote.

The film received a warranted ten-minute standing ovation at Cannes this year. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a rollicking, nonsensical romp through the Spanish countryside you’ll be happy to have tagged along for.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Written by Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni

Starring Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Joana Ribeiro, Jordí Molla, Stellen Skarsgård, Olga Kurylenko, Óscar Jaenada, Jason Watkins, Hovik Keuchkerian

Spain/UK/France/Belgium/Portugal.. Rated M, 133 mins.