The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

When you get a film directed by Terry Gilliam you know you are in for something out of the ordinary and in this respect the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus doesn’t disappoint….despite the death of its star Heath Ledger halfway through shooting! Replacing him with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, all playing the same character was an inventive way of getting out of a problem that with a less surreal film, could have closed the production down completely. As such, it does get a bit unfocussed in parts but you’ve got to give Gilliam credit for getting it finished at all!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Veteran actor Christopher Plummer stars as Dr Parnassus, an immortal man who travels with his imaginarium, a doorway that contains a variety of strange worlds, all created by the mind of the person who walks through it. Parnassus made a deal with the Devil many years ago for his immortality with his daughter as the payment. But the time is coming when he has to honour the deal and he does not want to give up his daughter, so a new bet is struck, the first to entice five souls, wins.

As you would expect from Gilliam, the film is a thing of beauty, a visual treat for the eyes as well as a roller coaster for the mind. Strictly speaking the movie is an allegory and some people might find it hard to watch and confusing, but to my mind it’s brilliant and an original story, very well told. The director gets the most out of his cast with Plummer excelling in the role of the half drunk Parnassus and Tom Waits happily chewing up the scenery as the Devil. Ledger himself turns in a very real and believable final performance and his replacements are extremely good at conveying that they are in fact all the same character with a different face. Lily Cole shows that she is a gifted and capable actress and new talent Andrew Garfield also manages to impress. It’s an absolutely typical Gilliam film, up there with his best work but is accessible to a wide audience. Definitely worth seeing, even if it leaves you scratching your head afterwards.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Tom Waits, Heath Ledger, Verne Troyer, Jude Law
Country: UK | Canada | France
Language: English | Russian | French
Year: 2009

 

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