You are currently viewing A Master at Work: Lessons from Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote
A Master at Work: Lessons from Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote

The search for the artist’s end is a miraculous journey that the creators that have lived throughout all time take and can recognise in themselves.

Not to say that the artist must suffer, but that he always endures a sense of hopelessness, frustration in the lack of resolution of his passions. It is the lover never sated; it is the messenger never finding his audience.

Terry Gilliam’s new film ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote‘ made me reflect on this fundamental part of the journey to me.

I went to see the film on a cold Manchester rainy evening, perplexed by the chaos and noise of the city. The mass of people of all ages, races and beliefs milling about in their complex business. It was a fitting introduction to the experience of the movie and a barrier of sorts of its own.

It made me think about life and the barriers that we always face before our ultimate resolution. Even a man walking in front of me, or a driver skipping a red light poses a danger, a threat to where you are wont to be. A lover in your hand a distraction, a buzzing phone in your pocket, ”oh, my friend Sam has just got married, fancy that!’ reminding you of the things you need to do and places you need to be.

I get to the movie and look around near bedazzled by the people in the building, full of fashionistas, and people of all cultures and faces and races, here for a reason unbeknownst to me. Was this not a cinema? Where is the cinema? I ask around, and can I take my (overpriced) beer in there with me?

They nod their heads, it starts on time, no adverts they say.

Entered the darkroom, I relax in comfort, away from the chaos and the noise, the confusion and the bustles and hustles of life.

The movie inspired me to ponder, it allowed me to ponder on the existential threat of life, however. How small we walk, and how slow we go, through the infinitesimal markers and means of our lives. And where do we go, if we do not go closer to our artistic resolution, or at least the catharsis of our makers or masters means.

The movie explored the hopeless quest and deranged adventures and ramblings of Don Quixote. A director, much like Fellini’s 8 1/2 efforts in his mad dreams of a film. His struggles to make his life’s work come to life.

A fantastically fascinating work. This is what real cinema is. The exploration of the moving image as a message and a means to and a lens through the artists peripheral of the world. Exploring the creative process, the intellectual ruminations of man, the hopeless quest, the yearnless means to find something. And what an apt night prior to viewing it. Surrounded by chaos and strange faces and deranged ideals and people of the city. It is such a strange strange world sometimes. And how little words do to convey that strangeness. The closest you can come is poetry or cinema.

But this film did work for Terry Gilliam, 25 years in the making, his quest found resolution. But for Don Quixote it is not quite so clear.

I can more relate to the protagonist in the film. For myself who studied art, I used it to express and define myself as a sculptor sculpts. My art training to me through the education system, but the resolution was never clear.

It seems to be in my laudanum introspection that my quest is not complete either, and perhaps like Terry and Quixote, it is hopeless, a deranged dream, a dreadful and dismal drudgery that sees no end in sight.

And yet, is this not the artist’s adventure? Is this not what we all go through, and is this not the part of the hero’s adventure, the 2nd trial, before the continuation? Don Quixote did not give up, Terry Gilliam did not give up despite the people around him pleading him to do so, like in his film, the director in threat of losing his mojo and creative spirit revisits his past and there finds a spark, and a dream that informs the destiny perhaps of his film or perhaps of his self, a final resolution. Before he meets his maker, the great Cervantes in the sky.

This is what I must do, and what you must do, look to don quote, look to the hopeless and yearn less adventure. It is all we can do.

My adventure is not over. Hope lies in the dreams.

Like Quixote and Terry Gilliam alike, you too have the choice to:

  • ignore the naysayers
  • ignore the money and market appeals and pleads
  • ignore the doubts
  • embrace the adventure and uncertainty

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