LFF 2018 The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Review
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) Film Review from the 62nd Annual London Film Festival, a movie directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, Olga Kurylenko, Joana Ribeiro, Oscar Jaenada and Sergi Lopez.
Terry Gilliam has its very own unique style that has not changed or improved much over the years. His motion pictures feature stunning production designs, extravagant, ridiculous plots and over-the-top characters and performances. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is no exception. For all its shiny craziness, ultimately, the emotional punch and point of the film get lost in the film’s ridiculousness. On the other hand, the film’s second act is extremely enjoyable. There are about five hundred attempts at humour in the film and most of the successful ones are in that act.
The film’s plot follows a director, Toby Grisoni, played by Adam Driver, who has a history of adapting the popular tale of Don Quixote. The film-maker gets reunited with an old actor (Jonathan Pryce), who has somehow fully adopted the mindset of the famous character. The two go on a mad adventure, in which the modern and the old collide. It is a story set in modern times, featuring a very posh person accompanying a well-armed knight from another era. Their journey is dangerous, sometimes lethal, sometimes dramatic but mostly insane and slightly comedic. Additionally, Stellan Skarsgard and Olga Kurylenko deliver decent supporting performances.
A lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Adam Driver and he handles it as well as he can. His performance really adds to the humour in the film. The actor is equally believable in the film’s supposedly emotional moments, even though they fall flat because of the messy script. Every time Driver’s character sees Pryce’ incarnation of Don Quixote doing something ridiculous he goes “What the f….” with a half-hysterical, half-angry tone. He needs to deliver that line about 10 times throughout the film and believe it or not, it is funny every time. As a matter of fact, he has to do all sorts of mad things several times over – hide, fight, scream, fall down, run. But whatever a scene’s strong sides are, he always finds a way to build on them.
As for Pryce, the veteran actor is required to pull off a much more specific and one-sided performance and as expected, he does it flawlessly. He encapsulates the noble character of Don Quixote – every line of dialogue is uttered with dignity and conviction, which hint at the virtuous moral compass of this knight. When the modern world overwhelms the old man, Pryce’s confusion and confidence can be as touching as they are hilarious (when the drama and the comedy work that is). He and Driver are an entertaining pair-up and when they are not together, the film is pretty much dead.
A Random Third Act That Fails to Connect Emotionally
The first act is mostly uninteresting and features a lot of failed jokes but it is reasonably carried by Driver, Kurylenko and Skarsgard’s performances. Then the second act kicks in and Driver and Pryce’s chemistry enchants the audience, while showering them with plenty of good laughs. In the third act, the film-makers attempt and fail to make sense out the film’s crazy plot, while delivering an emotional pay-off to the characters. In the process they almost fully let go of the comedy that is, in fact, the film’s high point.
Unfortunately, the entire ending sequence that takes place in a castle is so ridiculously convoluted and nonsensical that any emotion and sense of logic or consequence gets lost amidst the chaos. It is a sequence of events that appears to be completely random and provides no feeling of pay-off or understanding. So, when the characters reach the emotional peak in their stories, it is very difficult to feel for them because nothing of what you saw beforehand made much sense either. You are watching a series of random events leading up to a random ending.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote works best in its middle act, as a comedy that thrives on the conflict between the old and the new. The dramatic moments in the film fail because of the overwhelmingly inane plot and the consistently messy, unclear situations, which the characters find themselves in. It is curious to understand what really inspires Gilliam to tell a story or what his aim is. Is it to confuse us, to overwhelm us with glistening costumes and sets, to make us cry, to make us laugh? Or is it all of those things at the same time? Maybe that’s a secret that only his most devoted fans know. However, they will also likely be the only people who will love this film.
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