The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) | Cannes Film Festival 2018
Terry Gilliam’s struggle to film Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote has been as epic as the title itself. The finished version of his fantasy adventure – that sees a disillusioned advertising executive mistaken for Sancho Panza – is beset by legal potholes as it fights its way stoically towards the Red Carpet with a beleaguered but indomitable cast of Jonathan Pryce, who stars as El Don himself (and also in Cannes title: Solo: A Star Wars Story), Adam Driver, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Watkins and Olga Kurylenko.
Miguel de Cervantes crafted a likeable story with everlasting appeal – its simple premise: that Chivalry should not die out in the ‘modern age’. And that’s certainly a timely tenet that very much applies today. Even back in the 17th century, it was Don Quixote’s bee in his iron helmet, and he was said to be rendered mad by reading too many books on the subject of good manners. So he sets with his trusty squire Sancho Panza, and his lady Dulcinea, to make things right in the world from his titular hometown in La Mancha – where clearly he was suffering from dementia. During his confused and eventful journey, his worried family desperately try to get him home.
Terry Gilliam’s passion project has been two decades in the making. When he set out he too had no idea that the saga would develop into its own quixotic tragedy. Keith Fulton’s 2002 documentary charts Gilliam’s doomed attempt and actually confirmed the well-known chestnut the ‘rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” – filming was abandoned when the set was flooded. This put the mockers on Gilliam’s cherished dream, but he pushed on undeterred, and blissfully unaware that his hope would soon develop into a nightmare.
Over the years, several actors have been attached to the project including John Hurt, Ewan MacGregor and even Robert Duvall. But not all attempts to bring Cervantes’ legendary novel to the screen have been so problematic. Some have been roaring tributes. In 1926 Danish director Lau Lauritzen cast the leading comedians of his era in the main roles: Carl Schendstrom and Harald Madsen were Denmark’s answer to Laurel and Hardy. Then Georg Wilhelm Pabst chose the esteemed Russian actor Feodor Chaliapin Sr to play the chevalier in The Adventure of Quixote, which appeared in three languages (German, French and English). Rafael Gil successfully followed, filming the story as a comedy in 1947 with Rafael Rivelles in the saddle as Quixote, and Juan Calvo as Sancho Panza. Orson Welles then made a valiant stab in his (unfinished) 1972 project that followed a similarly tortuous path as Gilliam’s, starting in 1957. But typically Welles run out of money and was forced to abandoned filming, the project was later developed by Jesus Franco who released the dubbed version in 1992 to uninspired reviews. Robert Helpmann directed and also starred in the main role of his 1973 ballet version, with Rudolf Nureyev as Basilio. And David Beier’s 2015 version actually starred James Franco, but the less said about this one, the better. Needless to say, there have numerous TV adaptations.
And Terry Gilliam is not the only talent to suffer for his art at this year’s 71st celebration, many filmmakers have been forced by their own governments – not by their producers (as in Gilliam’s case) – to fret or stay at home. In a strange twist, Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov won the Don Quixote award at Locarno for his film Yuri’s Day (2008) and has been placed under house arrest, forbidden to attend this year’s Cannes festival to accompany his Palme d’Or hopeful Summer (Leto). And Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi shares the same plight. He first appeared in Cannes with his debut White Balloon (1995) which went on to win the Camera d’Or, the first major award won by an Iranian film at the world’s most famous film festival. This year he will be staying at home while his drama Three Faces screens in the main competition. Let’s hope The Man Who Killed Dox Quixote survives its arduous journey and finally makes it to the Croisette. MT
It was announced on the 9th that the film will indeed play as the closing film as originally planned
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 8 -19 MAY 2018 | OUT OF COMPETITION