Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is in a kind of show business hell. A deeply personal movie to the director, as all his films are – this is no journeyman helmsman, it’s been in the works since 1989. In the time it’s taken to make this movie, two movies about the making of it were made. The first, Lost in La Mancha from 2002, was a brilliant study of a failed production told in sad physical comedy. The team behind that film will continue the tale of the film and the director in the new documentary He Dreams of Giants, according to Variety.
He Dreams of Giants was directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, who also made The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys (sense a pattern?). The filmmakers caught the footage on the set of the version of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which finally made it to the screens. Though we don’t know which screens it will ultimately be projected on except the closing slot of the Cannes Film Festival, because it is still mired in legal murk.
Fulton and Pepe altered the point of view for the documentary. “We began to think this is more a film about an internal struggle in an artist’s mind,” Fulton told Variety. “What is it like for an artist to be standing on the brink of actually finishing this project finally?”
The filmmakers retained the raw cinema verite storytelling dramatics that unfolded in real time. “Even on the set we would say the conflicts raging around Terry right now of making the movie are not nearly as interesting as what’s going on inside his head,” Pepe told Variety.
The core of the film comes with Fulton and Pepe call a “mindscreen” technique, tight camera studies of Gilliam’s face as he reacted to the events as they happened, the scenes as he directed them, his vision translated to celluloid while the business of putting them on film played out on the sides. These are cut with archival footage and extensive interviews.
He Dreams of Giants focuses on the off-screen action, but it is not the center of the film. “We certainly touch on it in our film and acknowledge it, but it always struck us that it wasn’t as fascinating as this deeper 27-year push,” Fulton told Variety.
While Gilliam was reportedly treated for health issues during the most recent stage of the film’s battle, Pepe told Variety he notices Gilliam’s “spirits have certainly been plucked up again by all of this conflict. The filmmaking struggles are “is the opposite of Kryptonite for him. It totally feeds him.”
He Dreams of Giants is being edited as you read this. It was produced by Quixote Productions, which is based in the United Kingdom, and the filmmakers’ Low Key Pictures, along with Corniche Pictures. Lucy Darwin, another producer, is in Cannes right now talking about selling it.