Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Ana Puchau de Lecea, PhD Candidate and Teaching Associate, University of Melbourne

Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

“Twenty-five years in the making … and unmaking…” Terry Gilliam’s much awaited film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, has finally arrived.

Gilliam’s take on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel had to overcome the most unlikely obstacles in various shooting attempts, including problems with funding, and health or scheduling issues for the original protagonists, Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s documentaty, Lost in La Mancha (2003), was meant to be about the making of Gilliam’s film, and ended up being about the vicissitudes that made its production almost impossible.

Mirroring Gilliam’s legendary difficulties, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote presents Toby (Adam Driver) as a director literally tilting at windmills. Dealing with the problems and delays of one of his productions in Spain, Toby finds a pirate copy of his graduation project being sold illegally at a dinner party. Its title is El hombre que mató a Don Quijote - literally, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. The game of metafiction characteristic of Cervantes’ masterpiece has only started.

Read more: Guide to the classics: Don Quixote, the world's first novel – and one of the best

Overwhelmed by the pressure of his boss (Stellan Skarsgård) and his boss’s wife Jacqui (Olga Kurylenko), Toby makes his own “first sally” on a motorcycle. The unexpected finding of his first film, shot in the same location ten years before, has aroused his curiosity and he decides to explore the area in search of the locals who participated in it.

In the tiny village of Los Sueños (literally, The Dreams), he speaks in Spanish to the owner of “Raul’s tapas y vinos,” until in a metacinematic move he literally elbows the subtitles off the screen. Who needed them anyway? The film continues completely in English from that moment.

A few metres from Los Sueños a sign warns him that “Don Quijote vive” (“Don Quixote lives”), and for a few euros an old woman allows him to check for himself if the sign is true. In a caravan, behind a curtain and a projection of his own film, Toby finds Javier (Jonathan Pryce), the shoemaker who had played Don Quixote ten years ago in his film. The eternal struggle between dreams and reality and the metafictional game push the story forward.

In the same way that books of chivalry inspired Alonso Quijano to become the knight Don Quixote in Cervantes’ novel, Toby’s film has transformed Javier, who has since come to believe himself to be the man from La Mancha. He recognises Toby as a companion of ancient adventures … his faithful squire Sancho. Despite Toby’s refusal, the former shoemaker is convinced that new adventures await them. And he is right.

Terry Gilliam's long-awaited cinematic feat keeps Don Quixote's idealistic spirit alive Jonathan Pryce (centre) as Javier, the shoemaker who believes himself to be the man from La Mancha. © Diego Lopez Calvin - Tornasol Films

As in the episode of the galley slaves in the novel, in which the Spanish knight errant frees several criminals and is later stoned by them, the new Don Quixote frees Toby from the hands of the Spanish Civil Guard moments after their reunion.

There are windmills and giants, flocks of sheep that are also battling armies, wineskins mistaken for ferocious giants and battles against courageous knights. The continuous exercise of discerning between what he sees and Don Quixote’s perspective makes Toby eventually confuse reality and dreams.

Suspicious of the farmers who welcome them in a rural village, yet seem to be hiding something, he discovers that they are undocumented Moroccan immigrants. While it’s the 21st century, and the Spanish Inquisition is long dead, the immigrants’ fear of the Spanish authorities suggest some old stories repeat themselves.

Terry Gilliam's long-awaited cinematic feat keeps Don Quixote's idealistic spirit alive The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is the tale of a the misadventures of a film director, played by Adam Driver. IMDB

Gilliam spices up these feats with his particular sense of humour. The cruel tricks of the duke in the second part of the novel now take place in the castle of Alexei, a despotic Russian millionaire (Jordi Mollà) whom Toby’s boss wants to impress. Among a number of dramatic events that take place during one of his lavish parties, a group of bearded women who have supposedly been enchanted are mistaken for suicidal extremists. Although the Russian mogul forces subordinates to read Cervantes’ novel, clearly some of them did not make it to the second part …

Among Alexei’s “property” is Angelica (Joana Ribeiro), whom Toby met shooting his first film. Her character is a missed opportunity to show the modernity of Cervantes’ female characters.

In the novel, the shepherdess Marcela, Dorotea, or the captive Zoraida, are examples of free-thinking, independent women whose speeches written in the early-17th century still surprise the contemporary reader. In contrast, Gilliam uses the female characters as props for the hero’s story, adding to the adaptations that don’t look beyond Dulcinea, Don Quixote’s original idealised lady.

By the film’s end, Toby himself has been irremediably infected by the delusion and the chivalric obsession of righting wrongs. He now believes that he is Don Quixote, and he will continue battling giants and aiding damsels in distress.

Gilliam’s quixotic feat in finally releasing his version proves that no matter the obstacles, the character’s idealistic spirit is very much alive. “Don Quijote vive”, indeed.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is screening as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Authors: Ana Puchau de Lecea, PhD Candidate and Teaching Associate, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/terry-gilliams-long-awaited-cinematic-feat-keeps-don-quixotes-idealistic-spirit-alive-101239

What's in a name? Well, quite a bit if your name is Karen (or Jack, John, Jeff, Dolly, Biddy, Meg ...)


Don't know what day it is or who said what at the last meeting? Blame the coronavirus


Secondary school textbooks teach our kids the myth that Aboriginal Australians were nomadic hunter-gatherers


The Conversation


Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Tracy Grimshaw

TRACY GRIMSHAW: Prime Minister, thank you for your time.    PRIME MINISTER: Great to be here. Thank you for the opportunity.    GRIMSHAW: A month or so ago, you probably thought that today's...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Instant Steel Solutions Review

Are you keen on having the right guidance, knowledge and information about the right kind of steel purchases for your industries? If yes, then you are in the right place. There is no doubt that ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Everything You Need To Know About Waste Removal Services 

Waste is capable of posing threats to the environment and general public health. So, if you want to live a healthy life, you need to take care of your waste products. Proper collection and dispo...

News Company - avatar News Company

How Forklift Rental Can Assist During Unexpected Upturns

Although some companies might balk at the prospect of hiring a forklift for the work they need to get done rather than buying it, hiring a forklift can fill a very specific need: being able to m...

News Company - avatar News Company

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion