He Dreams of Giants (2019) – Film Review
Directors: Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe
Cast: Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Pryce, Keith Fulton
by @Roger Crow
Film making is hard enough if you’re a fit young director with a head full of ideas. If your movie is super commercial and you have a good producer, it gets easier. And if you’re filming in an area where you can control the elements, such as a studio, then easier still. But if you’re an old man with a health condition making a film that is a little outside the box in a foreign country, miles from anywhere with tempestuous weather, then good luck.
Terry Gilliam’s refusal to conform to the norm has been well documented over the years, and his battle to bring The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the big screen was superbly covered 20 years ago with the documentary Lost in La Mancha. Having crafted the excellent 12 Monkeys ‘making of’ documentary The Hamster Factor, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe charted how Gilliam tried to make a Quixote version with Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort. However, that fell apart due to freak weather, health problems and all manner of other issues.
Thankfully Gilliam persisted with his dream, but at what cost? Every shot of him barring a couple in this compelling follow-up documentary, he’s either in pain, frustrated or both. At one point it looks like he might actually die.
For someone like me who has followed Terry’s work for decades, and was lucky enough to interview him on a couple of occasions, the doc is a bittersweet joy. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the actual finished film. Maybe I need to watch it again having seen the blood, sweat and tears that went into it. But I do know this is the closing chapter of a brilliant ‘making of’ documentary that was left up in the air two decades ago.
And if it does nothing else, it should persuade newcomers to Gilliam’s work to check out sublime offerings Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Fisher King. The latter, which is now a staggering 30 years old, remains one of Terry’s best films, not least because it’s what happens when a stubborn genius like him compromises with a major studio. If he’d done that more over the years, he would have at least turned out more films.
Or maybe not. Who knows?
I do know that Gilliam’s body of work is phenomenal, and the stories that go into the making of his films are even more amazing (The Battle of Brazil and Losing the Light are recommended reads).
Whether you’re a struggling film maker, a hardcore Monty Python fan, or just love to see seasoned visionary chasing his dream, this is one of the best documentaries of the year.