An intimate, compelling documentary about one director’s determination and battle to make his white whale He Dreams of Giants is a fascinating glimpse at this period in Terry Gilliam’s life is as sincere as a documentary about filmmaking and creativity can get.
A moving and heartfelt tribute to a seemingly insurmountable artistic quest, He Dreams of Giants follows visionary icon Terry Gilliam’s final journey to finish his elusive passion-project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
We ease into He Dreams of Giants by showing the uninitiated audiences the struggles of the original 2000 version that only lasted 6 days. The first days audio was deemed useless thanks to an F-16 fighter plane going by the entire day. With cast having conflicting schedules and flash floods destroying equipment (amongst other things), the production was halted on day 6, and it never started back up again. Leaving Gilliam in despair and stuck with a vision yet to make it onto the screen.
You would be forgiven for thinking that He Dreams of Giants is a simple making-of documentary detailing how Gilliam got to make his long-sought-after film. Yet, this is so much more than that; we look into the great director’s mind as he tries to figure out if it is possible to make this film. Excerpts of previous interviews throughout his career show us a man full of determination and grit that he will do anything and everything to make this film happen. Even admitting that he almost prioritises the making of the movie over his family.
A previous documentary or making off that once said that when a director tries to make a film, they are going into their own war. With Gilliam, you see that, at least in a creative way. Throughout the documentary, we see how battered he has become to get his vision to the screen, and as he sits during production meetings, you sense the fear he has that he won’t find the budget.
Right from the start of filming, Gilliam admits that he hasn’t been near a camera for multiple years and the doubts are deep within him. He feels he wastes an entires day filming because of his poor decisions, and as the pressure of the film mounts more and more on him, we witness his health deteriorate quickly; it seems the film took a chunk out of him. A penance he is all too willing to pay to clear Don Quixote from his mind.
Tellingly the more we watch Gilliam and his efforts, the more he mirrors the story he is trying to tell. Stuck for long with this story, this man in his brain that he has eventually become him. It is rather apt he reaches this point, and no matter how torturous, it will always feel it was always meant to be this way. This journey to make the film was almost always going to overshadow the movie itself, and yet you will find yourself immediately wanting to watch it afterwards. You want to see the film that caused all of this, and as we now have the expectations set because of this productions issues, it is still a treat.
Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe do tremendous work with He Dreams of Giants to show not only the process of how we get to the production but to show the actual production allows for a therapeutic tone to come across. We root for Gilliam to get his film made, no matter how rough around the edges he seems in meetings and during filming. We even understand why he is this way about this film. He is wholly consumed by it and even haunted by the previous films 6 days worth of footage, pouring over it and needlessly comparing the two and lamenting if this new version does not live up to it.
Gilliam is as frazzled as a man could possibly be throughout the production; when something appears to go wrong, he has the look of a man whose world has come crashing down. Small moments such as Jonathon Pryce falling over has him panicked, full of memories of before. There is so much doubt resting within him, it becomes clear how much of a minor miracle it was that we got the film we did in 2018.
A film that is far superior to the original documentary from the same filmmakers about the first failed project, He Dreams of Giants is an essential watch about a filmmaker who is in a constant battle to get his projects made. Boy, did he conquer this one.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents He Dreams of Giants on digital platforms 29 March 2021.
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