THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS (2009)

Directed By: Terry Gilliam 
Written By: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeon 
Cinematography By: Nicole Pecorini 
Editor: Mick Audsley 
 

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lilly Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farell

In London, the sideshow troupe of Doctor Parnassus promises the audience a journey to the “Imaginarium”, an imaginary world commanded by the mind of Doctor Parnassus, where dreams come true. In the stories that Doctor Parnassus tells to his daughter Valentina, the midget Percy, and his assistant Anton, he claims to have lived for more than one thousand years; However, when he fell in love with a mortal woman, he made a deal with the devil (Mr. Nick), trading his immortality for youth. As part of the bargain, he promised his son or daughter to Mr. Nick on their sixteenth birthday. Valentina is now almost to the doomed age and Doctor Parnassus makes a new bet with Mr. Nick, whoever seduces five souls in the Imaginarium will have Valentina as a prize. Meanwhile the troupe rescues Tony, a young man that was hanged on a bridge by the Russians. Tony was chased until he finds and joins the group. Tony and Valentina fall in love with each other and the jealous Anton discovers that his competition may be a liar.


The thing when it comes to Terry Gilliam’s films is that his films are so far off the beaten path that it takes a while to get used to while watching his films. But once you get used to his world and get onto the rhythm of his films you are usually in for a treat. The man’s imagination is so vivid that you are guaranteed to see things you have never seen before.

This film I wanted to love but ended up liking the ingredients were there Gilliam writing with Charles McKeon who he co-wrote THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN with. They create a vivid original world and characters but in many ways, it feels like it falls short. 

The story is Doctor Parnisuss made a deal with the devil that for immortality and the hand of the woman he loved the devil could have his daughter when she turned 18. They have an ongoing game. That involves a magical mirror. A mirror where people go into a fantasy world and can choose either light or the darkness if they go to the darkness the devil gets their soul if they go into the light they are given a euphoric joy that gives them delight and their fantasy come to life. He tries to find a way out of it but when the devil comes to collect he makes another deal the first who can get 5 souls wins. This would be a tragedy if not for saving Tony a mysterious rogue they find hanging off a bridge they save his life and tony repays them by coming up with a way to save their business which is a traveling circus, Side show with the magical mirror.  

This is Heath Ledger’s last film. He, unfortunately, died before the film was finished and his role is played in different scenes by Colin Farell, Johnny Depp, and Jude law which in its own way works as they all play fantasy versions of his character and it feels seamless. 
One always felt Heath ledger had the talent for bigger and better things and luckily he never had mainstream tastes when it came to roles he was always attracted to the more abstract roles which I felt would lead him to be the next Johnny Depp as early in his career he also was more in artistic films then later in his career finally choose more mainstream roles.  

The casting of this film is good Verne Troyer plays a good role not as comedic as usual. Christopher Plummer is a hoot as Doctor Parnisuss he is clearly having fun. Tom Waits as the devil is always a joy to watch with his original looks and charisma. 

While one might prefer old school special effects and would like them to be used more, but though this film has tons of CGI it works for the story as it enhances the film and is useful more than anything else to help tell the tale in vivid detail. 
 

Now while I liked the film I never became invested in the film and felt like I was always kept at a distance from the characters and story. But I must give Gilliam credit as to how good the film is considering the tragedy that happened halfway through filming. 

One only wishes he could get the budgets and more luck when it comes to the making of his films it seems he always has to struggle to get his dream projects made then has to compromise or settle on films that while they have his creative genius. They just aren’t the films he should be making. They seem a little too streamlined and commercial for his artistic tastes. 


He is one of the last auteurs we have. He is a director who in the ’70s would have had people lining up around the corner to see his latest works because they would be guaranteed to see something original. Now he has a hard time Making films because his material is too original. 

The film has its own beauty and is interesting to watch, unfortunately it doesn’t last on the mind s much as past works of his have.  A Satisfying Rental  
GRADE: B-

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