It took decades to get this film to theatres; the finished product, as much as Terry Gilliam’s perseverance, is as strong a reminder as any of why we watch movies, and always will.
Ad-man and once idealistic filmmaker Toby (Adam Driver), mistaken for Cervantes’ Sancho Panza by a Spanish shoemaker he once cast as Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce), is drawn into a fantastical, indeed Quixotic adventure after Toby finds that his former lead has taken on the mantle and identity of the hero himself.
A surprisingly reverent adaption of the novel which given its conceit and as demonstrated by Gilliam could just as well have been set in modern day, Cervantes, and too the Python veteran, have asked us to suspend our notions of what is due in the course of ordinary events or even that which is logical so we can give ourselves over to the extraordinary. The very act of adopting a Quixotic air, as our film’s lead, those around him and soon we are joyously invited to do, requires an absolute if conscious dedication to that sanguine and propitious even given all that we cannot deny. If done so, and indeed it is an action endemic to the enjoyment of film, comedy and all the forms at which Gilliam among others involved have excelled, in the best traditions of the phenomenal novel you will enjoy this imaginative gem all the more.
Traversing rural Spain with some marvellous imagery all too apparently a product of Gilliam’s creativity, even if some of his more recognisably outlandish visual motifs and camera dynamics are, to the detriment of the film, seldomly deployed, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a joy with which to transfix yourself. Erring in depicting its episodes within such a hurried timeframe, compared to the more generously paced chapters of the novel, audiences will struggle to keep track of proceedings in a film that in part by virtue of its smorgasbord of happenings invites and assuredly deserves repeat viewings.
Pryce is superb throughout as the endearing staple of bookshelves everywhere, most notably in the subtle instances where the conflict within his villager and that which is too mirrored in Cervantes’ original creation goes acknowledged. As good as he is, Pryce is yet surpassed by Driver’s turn; patiently and ever so convincingly transforming the recognisably cynical figure into someone with whom we can palpably share this cathartic ride.
Driver, his presence now indisputably a mark of quality, among a strong cast brings to life a treat long in the making and decidedly worth the wait.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival