The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni
Cast: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Joana Ribeiro, Jordi Mollà, Olga Kurylenko, Stellan Skarsgård, Jason Watkins, Paloma Bloyd, Óscar Jaenada, Will Keen
Seen on: 5.10.2018

Toby (Adam Driver) is a director who is trying to shoot Don Quixote in the Spanish countryside. He actually attempted this before when he was a film student – and when he stumbles upon a copy of the film he made back then. He is inspired to track down the two key actors of the film, the shoemaker who played Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce) as well as his Dulcinea, played by Angelica (Joana Ribeiro). But when he discovers that the shoemaker is still convinced that he really is Don Quixote and that Toby is Sancho Panza, Toby is roped into quite an adventure.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was 25 years in the making and Gilliam fought hard to have it made. Having seen it now, I wonder whether it was worth the fight. It has its moments, but those really aren’t enough to make the film work.

The film poster showing a giant hand on which a couple of figures are standing in front of a windmill. Above it is a collage of the main characters of the film.

As a literature fan and student, I have read and studied Don Quixote, and from a purely literary point-of-view, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a disappointing interpretation of the the source material. It subscribes whole-heartedly to the romantic interpretation of Quixote, seeing him as a tragic, but ultimately heroic fighter against the injustices of the world, completely losing sight of the parodistic elements that are at the forefront of the story. But okay, the film is not the first one to go that route, but it still only work if you put on a lot of blinkers and ignore what else is going on in the story.

It’s with Dulcinea/Angelica that this is most notable. In the original text a point is made that Dulcinea is a rather ugly woman who lives close to Quixote – and he basically chose her at random because a knight needs a woman he does his heroic deeds for and she really has no interest in or any other affiliation with Quixote. In this film, though, they couldn’t have that: an ugly woman who is not interested in the protagonist? No way, José. So she is young and beautiful and of course there is romantic interest. Had me rolling my eyes in any case.

A younger man (Adam Driver) with a scarf and an older man (Jonathan Pryce) wearing a suit of armor on two horses.

But even if I put aside the literary background knowledge I have, the film just didn’t convince me. It was way too long, pretty exhausting and also sexist. The plot is messy and all over the place.

It did have its moments where it managed to make me laugh and Adam Driver acquits himself valiantly in a rather thankless role. It just wasn’t enough to make me really enjoy the film.

A young man (Adam Driver) with a fancy scarf and hat standing on a movie prop of a giant's hand, the giant's head visible in the background.

Summarizing: didn’t work.

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