The film opens with a title card, and all the context you need for the film.
after 25 years in the making…
I believe for the most part the film could be taken at its face value and you don’t need to know any of the behind the scenes for the film, but by opening with those words, it’s hard not to see how once you’re aware, there’s no way to not have them intertwined.
For those unaware, the character of Don Quixote comes from a Spanish novel The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. The protagonist who goes by Alfonso Quixano originally loses his sanity after reading stories of chivalry, and he gets lost in an alter-ego known as Don Quixote, and Don would then go around doing similar acts. There have been hundreds of adaptations, famously the musical Man of La Mancha which won five Tony’s back in 1966.
Terry Gilliam has had this as his passion project for nearly 30 years, he’s attempted to make it and once almost did in 2000, but the production fell apart as it began. There was a behind the scenes documentary that was released in 2002 called Lost in La Mancha. The film just seemed as if it was never going to happen. It became a joke that it would never will, as most film news website writing articles anytime there was new information regarding the filming. Or finishing of the film. It seemed like one of the films that we always heard would be made, but never realized. And thankfully, that’s not the case.
In Canada, Cineplex is seemingly only releasing the film for one night only, which is a shame because I’m sure there are hundreds of Gilliam’s fans to finally find out the outcome of the film. And deservedly so.
To be frank, Gilliam isn’t a filmmaker I necessarily “get”. After the few films I’ve seen of his, I’ve only enjoyed (but loved) The Fisher King. So I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with this film but it was very refreshing and rewarding. It’s about someone who loses themselves in the art they are attempting to make. And when that is in the hands of someone who has been trying to make one particular film for almost 3 decades, it comes off just as strong as it needs to.
Don Quixote himself is played by Jonathan Pryce, re-teaming with Gilliam once again. Adam Driver plays Tony Grisoni who clearly plays a stand-in for Gilliam as well. At one point, Tony finds a copy of his student film where he found Javier (who later identifies as Quixote) and as we watch the film with Tony, we see all of Gilliam’s classic Dutch angle’s and stylistic choices as the film is shot more “conventionally” in comparison.
The film is a very funny and fascinating look at arts, and how it can change us, but also what it means to get lost and absorbed by it. It’s best not to get lost in what we attempt to make, even if sometimes all we want is to get lost in what we are able to make.
After 25 years, it’s finally here and I’m happy that it finally is.