If development hell were a real place, Terry Gilliam would have his own wing. The British filmmaker has been trying to get his passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote off the ground since 1998, meeting all manner of hilarious and frustrating problems in the process. After facing down unreliable financiers, no-show actors, and the apparent wrath of God in the form of a flash flood that wiped his set away, the film finally wrapped last summer. Now, if this new international trailer is any indication, the movie actually exists—and it looks like it’s going to be as bonkers as its production history.
The oddly-paced trailer spends its first third showing us brief flashes of random imagery, including a shot of a woman bathing in a waterfall, for some reason. Even when the action gets going, though, the movie’s basic premise is presented in a frustratingly vague manner. Jonathan Pryce and Adam Driver seem a winsome pair as delusional old man and younger sidekick, respectively, but what is even going on here? (Apparently, Pryce is a man who thinks he’s Don Quixote, and that Driver’s character, an ad exec named Toby, is his Sancho Panza. That’s difficult to discern from the trailer alone.) There are a few jokes here and there, including a moment when Don Quixote stares at a woman’s breasts, but the overall effect is more infuriating than exhilarating.
Those sexist instances are especially hard to get over, considering Gilliam recently made headlines for asserting that many of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims were over-exaggerating their accusations. His other projects are hardly pillars of feminist representation, but there is some bafflingly old-school objectification going on in this preview. The film is rumored to play at Cannes this year, the festival which welcomed back Roman Polanski last year, and was later came under scrutiny for hypocritically condemning Weinstein.
Perhaps The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be every bit the magnum opus it once promised to be. Gilliam fans, who have witnessed a notable decline in the quality of his directorial projects in recent years, will certainly be anxious to see whether this film was worth the wait. If it’s not, well, maybe the universe was onto something.