Directed by Terry Gilliam
In The Man Who Killed Don Quixote a burned out tv commercial director returns to the small Spanish village in which he shot his thesis short film ten years previous, only to discover that the shoemaker he cast as Don Quixote is lost in a delusion that he is indeed Don Quixote.
A few incidents, assaults and mistaken identities later and that director, Toby (Adam Driver) will find himself lost in a world blurring reality and fantasy, right alongside that same delusional Quixote himself (Jonathan Pryce). This will be a world mixing together characters from Toby’s understood reality who suddenly embody more fantastical roles, some consciously and others perhaps not.
It’s a vivid, imaginative, wide-angled world like other Terry Gilliam films, notably Brazil (1985). In both films the protagonist is a fish out of water, someone lost and bewildered by their surroundings who finds a guiding light in the pursuit of a particular love interest. In both cases too they will be propelled like a pinball through the mazes of this world by characters with far more conviction and understanding of the higher powers that be, including a side character who will seem to show up around every corner, playing a different role, like a movie plot chameleon.
You can probably read into all of this a few different ways. It’s a story about a former artist who is now stuck on a financially lucrative commercial track. He is beyond questioning his own decisions, now openly disregarding and abandoning them. What does it matter to him?
So his journey through a world partially created by his own hand is a return to the probable insanity which once guided his work and ambitions. The black and white short film Toby made has the same visual markings as a Gilliam film, and because we are so lost in a Gilliam world, we might as well be falling down the labyrinth within Toby’s own mind.
Characters from his past and present will collide, challenge, or guide him to the next stage. They are people from the small Spanish town whom he put into his film, became infatuated with or who now involve themselves in his life thanks to financial investments. His is a past consisting entirely of illogical determination and a present made only of money and all the burdens that carries with it.
The antagonists within the increasingly complex fantasy world into which he stumbles are those who reflect the corporate side of filmmaking. They are the ‘money men’ and the ones who want to control. In that way this could just be about a man fighting his way back through time so that he might discover the passion he once had for the thing he now does with an absent mind. It is about a character choosing to re-engage with his own life.
The movie is long, probably a bit too long, and it’s completely wild, though in ways that may feel more hollow than symbolic. It’s silly and unpredictable, and for some this may wear thin. At the very least, however, it feels sincere, energetic and made with the type of passion you wish every film had.
Up Next: Under the Silver Lake (2018), Hud (1963), We Are Columbine (2018)