“You think explaining explains anything?”Don Quixote
In a week that saw the death of one Python, it was wonderful to see another’s dream finally realised. After (at least) 25 years Terry Gilliam’s take on Don Quixote, inspired by Cervantes’ novel principally by the titular character, will finally reach a wide audience this year, having been shown at Cannes in 2018. His ill-fated shoot with Johnny Depp is captured in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, and the new film is dedicated to Jean Rochefort and John Hurt, both previously cast as Quixote but who died before the film could be made. Suffice to say, Don Quixote carries significant baggage. In the script that emerged, Gilliams deftly translates the novel’s themes of the power and danger in fantasy from the medium of books to filmmaking, as a man is consumed by a role he played a decade ago while a girl is seduced by the idea she could be a star. Adam Driver is excellent as Toby, a dissatisfied director returning to rural Spain where he once shot a student film and witnessing the impact left behind. Jonathan Pryce spent years lobbying for the role of Quixote and dons the armour made for Rochefort with aplomb, bringing a sense of guileless innocence to the role. Whilst most of the women are under-served by the script, Joana Ribeiro’s Angelica is more nuanced: her dream may have crumbled in contact with reality with trite predictability but she owns her choices even if she has regrets; Toby’s guilt seeks to rob her of agency. Gilliams’ skill has always lain in occupying the inchoate space where fantasy and reality merge at the edges so his obsession with Quixote is understandable. Perhaps fittingly for a film about the dangers of fantasy, it is the full-blown dream sequences that feel like an unnecessary confusion. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote may not be an unqualified triumph but it is a joy to watch — at last the curse is lifted and this quest is complete.