He Dreams of Giants
Three years after the eventual release of Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, documentary duo Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe offer a fitting follow-up to behind-the-scenes documentary Lost in La Mancha. Their 2003 documentary starkly captured the cursed original production of Gilliam’s film. After living such nightmares as a biblical flash flood that ruined a day’s worth of shooting and a $15 million insurance claim made by original lead actor Jean Rochefort, what would possess a director to continue? And how does he maintain the same passion after 20 years since the original conception?
These questions prove to be the primary focus for Fulton and Pepe, even though no answers are offered. Footage of the film’s production is quite cursory – there are only occasional glimpses of lead actors Jonathan Pryce and Adam Driver, and short shots of the faithful crew. Instead, what dominates is archival footage of interviews with Gilliam revealing the pains of his process and his career, alongside trenchant self-deprecating soundbites while directing the new production.
As the documentary progresses, it is clear this project will not be plagued in the same way the original was. Gilliam still suffers the stresses of time, though; even in the early stages of production, he coarsely vents his angst at the apparent slowness of filming. As production draws to a close, though, one wonders if a weary and ill Gilliam will see its conclusion. Fulton and Pepe capture the latter moments of the process with artful close-ups of the debilitated director, underscored by a fantastically ominous score by Polish electroacoustic musician Jacaszek. At these moments, the directors vividly capture the reality that even artistic passion struggles in the battle with age.
Once a wrap is called, cast, crew and director are euphoric with happiness. So pleased are the documentarians at this, they end the film with a monochrome still image of a smiling Gilliam at Cannes. In doing so, they eschew the post-production legal battle the film was embroiled in. It is perhaps out of loyalty to their subject that they ignore this reality.
Overall, therefore, the documentary is clearly made out of admiration for Gilliam’s perseverance in the face of years of adversity. The result is a sincere, introspective sequel to the superior original.
He Dreams of Giants is released digitally on demand on 29th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for He Dreams of Giants here: