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The Cinema of Terry GilliamIt's a Mad World$
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Jeff Birkenstein, Anna Froula, and Karen Randell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165358

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165358.001.0001

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The Baron, the King and Terry Gilliam’s Approach to ‘the Fantastic’

The Baron, the King and Terry Gilliam’s Approach to ‘the Fantastic’

(p.54) Chapter Four The Baron, the King and Terry Gilliam’s Approach to ‘the Fantastic’
The Cinema of Terry Gilliam

Keith James Hamel

Columbia University Press

This chapter studies the elements of the fantastic in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and The Fisher King (1991), and suggests how Gilliam disrupts its formula with his particular auteurist twist. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen displays three characteristics of a fantastic work—the hyperbolic marvellous, exotic marvellous, and instrumental marvellous—based on Tzvetan Todorov's definition. On the other hand, The Fisher King contains sustained character ambiguity, unlike The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, in which the uncertainty concerns the narrative events. As these two films demonstrate, Gilliam begins in the marvellous or the uncanny, and ends near the line of the fantastic; but ultimately, it is the critique of modernity that keeps his fantasy films from truly being Todorovian fantastic texts.

Keywords:   fantastic, Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, hyperbolic marvellous, exotic marvellous, instrumental marvellous, Tzvetan Todorov, character ambiguity, narrative ambiguity, fantasy films

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