The Meaning of Strife

Documenting the Ruins of Terry Gilliam's Quixotic Dream Project

Fulton draws the more obvious parallel: "Terry is a quixotic character—his whole career has been battles with studios and the pursuit of the impossible dream." In essence, Gilliam concurs. "The project has to take you over. And then the weird thing is how it starts moving beyond you," he says. "Brazil is the perfect example: the bureaucracy against the individual. Everything that happened after the film was finished was what the film was about. Quixote is about madness and trying to make the world a more interesting place than it is and suffering; he's always being knocked off his horse and getting the shit kicked out of him, and he just gets up and keeps going. So the fact that the film didn't get made was actually the right thing. I don't like it," he hastens to add, laughing, "but it seems correct. If you're going to play around with Quixote then you have to become Quixote. Everybody says, 'You must move on.' Why should I move on? I'll do little detours, but I know where we're going.

"But actually getting it done would probably be a huge mistake, because it won't be as good as people imagine it could have been," continues Gilliam, clearly on a roll. "It's probably better to leave it as a documentary with little tantalizing glimpses of what might have been. It's my theory about Stanley Kubrick: He should have died before he finished Eyes Wide Shut. It would have forever been an unfinished masterpiece, beautiful ruins. When it's a ruin, you get these little fragments and you can imagine what the castle looked like." Gilliam's favorite aspect of moviemaking, he says, comes during "the early stages, when we're drawing things and planning the film in our heads—ah, that's exhilarating. The reality is that when we're finished, it's a fraction of what we were imagining. When I'm making films sometimes I want half the film to be in blackness so there's room for people to imagine what's in the shadows."

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