Film Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote features all the hallmarks we have come to expect from the filmmaker. The film is imperfect but endearing.

Director Toby is having trouble filming an adaption of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. He gets inspiration from his student film adaptation, which sets him off on quite the adventure…

Several years after the project was first conceived, Terry Gilliam finally delivers his Don Quixote. Gilliam jokes about the arduous production in the opening titles; a hint of the tongue-in-cheek humour that is to follow. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote first appears as if it will be a film within a film, but the filmmaker has something more to offer than this standard meta structure. 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote combines adventure, fantasy and comedy in a style Gilliam fans have become accustomed to. The filmmaker takes his trademark eccentric approach to proceedings, creating a film which is amusing and adventurous, with a healthy dose of wonder. Like its source material, the film plays on the idea of fantasy and allusion, with protagonist Toby fighting against the fancy, before succumbing. The film feels like an ode to make-believe; underlining the importance of imagination.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote seems like a typical Gilliam film thanks to the inventiveness, but also the shortcomings. The film offers some attention-grabbing ideas, but some of these run out of steam. The two-hour plus run time is occasionally felt. The third act recovers some of the slack, with a wonderful setting for the climactic scenes to take place in.

The film features some characters, sets and props that feel archetypical Gilliam. The locations are marvellous, and allow viewers to get lost in this world. Costumes are also great. Roque Baños’ score is ever so fitting. Adam Driver delivers is great as Toby. However it is Johnathan Pryce who steals the show, delivering an enchanting performance. 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has its flaws, but these do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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