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The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus [12A]
Released: 2009, Run Time: 123 minutes, Genre: Fantasy, Adventure.
Film Only Review.
Welcome to the world of the immortal Dr Parnassus step through the mirror and enter your own imagination.....
Dr Parnassus is the star act of an incredibly unsuccessful travelling theatre show. He, alongside Percy (Verne Troyer), Anton (Andrew Garfield) , and his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) travel the streets of modern day London trying to earn a living by enticing people to enter their own imaginations. Unbeknown to his comrades the immortal Dr Parnassus has made several deals with the devil Mr Nick (Tom Waits) which involves taking people's souls whilst they are in the imaginarium, Dr Parnassus purifies souls and the devil takes them to hell.
The prize for the latest contest is the beautiful Valentina, someone who the Doctor does not want to lose but as business dwindles so does the Doctor's chances of keeping his beloved Valentina. Enter Tony.
Tony (Heath Ledger) is found hanging from a bridge and is saved from the clutches of death by Valentina, Percy and an unenthusiastic Anton. Tony is a charmer and a good salesmen and may be the answer to the troupe's prayers. He is a master at bringing in business but is he all he really seems? How much can you really trust an amnesiac hanging from a bridge?
The film opens with drunk people being kicked out of a bar named the Medusa- I liked this mythological reference, it demonstrated to me that the director had thought this through. I buckled my seat belt and got prepared for the fantasy ride of my life. I was expecting a well though out, rich, fantastical whirlwind of a film. Unfortunately this small detail of the entire two hour long film was the highlight of the whole thing and I am not exaggerating.
This film is terrible, my boyfriend and I spent the whole film huffing and puffing our way through it, all two hours of it. This film is a prime example of how all the graphics, money and cinematography in the world cannot make a good film. A good film is all about a well written plot and this film had no plot.
The film is known as Heath Ledger's last film as he died during filming. This led to Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell stepping in to film the parts when Tony is in the imaginarium. I knew this prior to watching the film and so I expected this to be disappointing and for it to ruin the continuity of the film but it didn't as the film has no continuity. It seemed to be random bits of opulent visuals mixed in with people shopping at Homebase. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of the abnormal and everyday which essentially should work well but not without a plot. There was no reasoning behind anything what happened in this film and this made it hard to follow and even harder to enjoy.
Heath Ledger's performance was standard. I felt Johnny Depp did the best portrayal of Tony, better than Heath Ledger's in fact. Jude Law and Colin Farrell were average, neither particularly outstanding. The stand out performances for me were Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield. I enjoyed the chemistry between them and I particularly liked Lily's costumes. Her elfin good looks helped her portray the ethereal Valentina. Tom Waits portrayal of the devil was interesting, he had one of the smaller parts but I enjoyed watching him the most.
The films strengths lie in it's visual imagery. The scenes within the imaginarium are stunning but even these become boring as the film goes on. The film is a self indulgent visual extravaganza from the director (Terry Gilliam) and it totally ignores the audience. I like fantasy films and the idea behind this film isn't too bad but the fact that the director didn't use the two hours to explain anything further than the superficial annoyed me.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this film even from the perspective of it being Heath Ledger's last film. Let his legacy lie with the Dark Knight, don't do what I did and let your last memory of him be this film, let him live on as the fantastic, wonderful, talented man that played the most disturbing Joker we've ever seen not as Tony from that rubbish film that dragged on.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
To a film maker, having your lead actor die on you half way through the film must rate quite highly on the annoyance scale. Certainly it was a setback from which The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus never recovered. How it might have turned out if it hadn't been for Heath Ledger's tragic demise is up for debate, but his untimely death certainly must have contributed to the disjointed nature of this bizarre movie.
The convoluted tale revolves around a sideshow troupe performing to a mixture of down-and-outs in modern-day London. The show involves leading members of the public through a doorway to a world created by the mind of the troupe leader, the immortal Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) where they find a world moulded by their own imaginations.
Unfortunately, Doctor Parnassus has a dark secret: in order to win the heart of the woman he loved, many years ago, he made a deal with the devil (Mr Nick played by Tom Waits). In return for being given back his youth, the doctor promised to give the Mr Nick his at-the-time unborn daughter on her 16th birthday.
Back to the present and things are looking bleak for the troupe as it struggles to pull in the punters. The doctor is all too aware that his daughter Valentina's (Lila Cole) date with destiny is fast approaching. Just when disaster seems about to strike the troupe find a possible saviour. Tony (played by Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell...but more on this later), a young man they rescued from hanging, seems just the charismatic frontman the act needs to rescue it. In addition, Valentina gets an unlikely lifeline; the devil makes another deal with doctor Parnassus. Whoever manages to seduces five souls first in the Imaginarium will get to keep Valentina.
Doubts, however, begin to arise; is Tony all he seems to be? No-one knows anything about his background, least of all Tony himself who has amnesia from his brush with death. Could it be his motives are not as pure as it seems? In addition, there is the unspoken question lingering in the air; can you really trust a deal with the devil?
There is no denying that TIODP is a spectacular film. The scenes inside the imaginarium are lavish and breath-taking, with no expenses spared on the surreal special effects and incredible cinematography. Director Gilliam's vivid imagination is realised on screen; gondolas, gigantic high-heeled shoes, gargantuan Faberge eggs, ladders acting like stilts that lead to the clouds are all shown in colourful, stunning detail.
Unfortunately, for me, this is where the film's merits begin and end.
The most obvious problem is with Tony's character. Heath Ledger filmed half of the scenes before he died. The result of this and the resultant fact that Gilliam tried to salvage as much footage as possible, is that many scenes involving him are included when other circumstances they would have ended up on the cutting-room floor.
None of the scenes with Tony's character inside the Imaginarium were filmed before Ledger's death. The solution to this problem was to have the character of Tony metamorphose whenever he goes inside. Thus, we have Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law also playing the same part. The net result is that the plot stoops to new levels of incoherency. It's also vaguely depressing - a tragic reminder of Ledger's death every time he steps foot through the entrance.
It's interesting to note that Depp, an actor I don't usually have much time for, is by far the best version of Tony. The others are adequate, as you'd expect, and I guess it's a credit to them that they don't try to out-act each other. The rest of the cast play such one-dimensional actors, its hard to get a real feel of their performances and even harder to care.
In a strange prologue, Gilliam states, to paraphrase greatly, that he wanted to really enjoy making the film, and didn't really give a damn what the audience thought. Well, I hope he had a lovely time making it, because I sure as hell didn't while watching it. You know when someone insists on describing the dream they had the night before and you don't really give a damn? Well, TIODP is like that. For two hours. The scenery might be a colourful dream-world, but the movie itself is a dreary, sludgy nightmare that I couldn't wait to wake up from.
I suppose the fact that Gilliam managed to make a film despite the loss of his actor half way through is commendable. Possibly, it was finished as a tribute to Ledger. If so, they needn't have bothered, as his superb performance in his last complete film, The Dark Knight, was the highlight of his otherwise mediocre career.
Release Date: 16 Oct 2009
Length: 123 Minutes
Awards: 2 Oscar Nominations (Art Direction and Costume Design)
What they said: "The imaginary world he's created is awe-inspiring, but it's ultimately designed for an art house audience." - BBC News
"Veers wildly between the magical, maladroit and plain mushy" - The Guardian
"A scrappy movie with more ideas than it can control, but one born out of a passion and determination that are wholly infectious." - Empire
Ratings: 64% Rotten Tomatoes ,7/10 IMDB, 65/100 Metacritic
Family Rating: 12A for mild swearing and a bit of violence. Also the hanging scene may be potentially frightening.
PRICE: Available for £5 new and under £2 used on Amazon
Conclusion: TIODP is certainly a great looking film, but underlying themes of morality and mortality are never fully explored. It never pretends to be anything other than superficial, which would be forgivable if it wasn't so boring. The difficulties in filming have resulted in an unevenly paced, psychedelic, self-indulgent mess of a movie that muddles blindly along until it's ultimate, unsatisfactory conclusion.
So would I recommend it? In a word, no. Noteable only as Ledger's last performance, even the superb special effects loose their appeal after a couple of hours of the tedious story-line. Unfortunately it comes across as a salvage job of a film that wasn't worth saving.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Dr Parnassus owns a travelling theatre company which he works on with daughter Valentina, a midget and Anton. He claims to be able to take people to their dream place using his mind. He also claims to be over 1000 years old and immortal. The devil cursed him so he can never die. However when he met and fell in love with a mortal woman he made another deal with the devil so he could be young again and woe this woman. As a result of the deal the first born child he has when they reach the age of 16 will belong to the devil.
Valentina is now nearing the age of 16 and Dr Parnassus tries to explain to her what will happen but he never gets to finish his story. He manages to make a new deal with the devil, the first one of them to give the devil 5 souls will win the bet and if Parnassus wins he can keep his daughter. Things are not going too well though and the too add to the trouble they find a man hanging under a bridge and after saving him he has no memory and joins the theatre group on their travels.
Can Dr Parnassus win the bet and keep his daughter and just who is the mysterious man they saved?
I have been wanting to see this film for some time now as the trailers made it look really interesting and their was an excellent cast list as well. I think this film was so known as it was the one which Heath Ledger was filming when he died and as a result I really wanted to see it. I did enjoy the film but at times I found I had no idea what was actually happening and I found it took me quite some time to actually work out the story and what it was all about. Once I had worked it all out I did managed to start enjoying it but overall I did think it was a little odd. The story was good and I think if it had be explained in a more simple way and with less eccentric behaviour it would have been more easy to follow an maybe it would have become suitable for a younger audience too.
I found the acting from all involved was excellent. The role of Parnassus was played by Christopher Plummer and I felt he did a very good job. He looked and came across as a gypsy type of person who was never able to settle. He looked to have had a troubled past and I felt I never got to know the true Parnassus as he held a lot back. He did a great job in convincing me of his character and I was able to warm to him and get a good understanding of his emotions and feelings. I felt he handled the whole magical element of the film very well and he also had a very good on screen bond with the other actors. The role which stood out by far in this film was that of Tony, played by Heath Ledger, he was a complex man and I felt he came across is a very good way at the start of the film. We knew little about him and I did actually like this element of mystery in the role. He delivered all of his lines well and he did bring a little bit of fun to the film with a few good one liners. He looked great and was very easy on the eye too! The midget Percy, played by Verne Troyer was also a great addition to the cast.
We did have some very good support role including appearances from Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell and I felt they added a lot to the film with their different takes on the same character and the w2ay they handled things. I think I would have liked to have seen a lot more of Johnny Depp though as he was able to bring a lot more of the mythical and magical element with those amazing eyes of his. Other good strong actors included, Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield.
The film was set in the present day travelling around London, I enjoyed seeing the different parts of London and not just the main areas of the city, we had some very dark and dreary places and I think this added a lot to the story. I loved the contrast between the modern day and the old fashioned theatre and the way they lived. They looked and had the appearance of gypsies and I think without this the film may not have worked as well. There were some good parts of the theatre and I found it all looked good.
The film is packed full of special effects and these are mainly when we enter the Imaginarium, I found they were all of a very high standard and looked amazing. I loved how colourful everything would become when we were here and felt it was a lovely escape from the drab city of London. The actors all worked well with the effects and helped to make them look very real. I felt the way they took ideas for people imaginations was excellent and I enjoyed watching all of the experiences. We also had a very good and mixed soundtrack to the film and I felt it all worked well, the contrast of songs was good as it helped show how different the places were.
This is a film only review so there are no bonus features to speak about. The running time of the film is 123 minutes and personally I found this to be a little on the long side, I don't think anything would really have been lost from the film if it had been shortened slightly, maybe 90-100 minutes would have been a better length. The rate for the film is a 12A and I do strongly agree with this, there is a lot of odd parts to the film and some of the scenes are a little weird to watch. I also feel a younger audience would not be able to follow the story at all as I found this a challenge at the start of the film. The DVD can be bought for around £7 now which I feel to be slightly over priced.
I would love to be able to give this film a higher rate but as it is I can only go for 3 stars. I found the story to be a little odd and hard to follow at times, we do have some excellent actors and effects in the film. I would recommend watching if you can catch it on the TV but it is not really worth paying out on the DVD for. It is currently being shown on Sky Movies and Anytime TV.
Upon first hearing about this film, I thought it was extremely interesting, not only because of the hype about Heath Ledger's death affecting the film, but also the plot was quite fantastical. After watching this, I was hugely let down.
The cover of the DVD would lead you to believe this movie is some sort of epic fantasy film, similar to the likes of Harry Potter, Stardust or even perhaps the Narnia series; at least that was what I was led to believe, and in parts it is. But don't watch this based on pretty box art or you will be fooled.
~~~THOUGHTS ON PLOT~~~
The plot revolves around Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), a man who made a bet with the devil, Mr Nick (Tom Waits) for immortality. Upon dealing with the devil yet again to obtain true love, he promises to surrender his only daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) on her sixteenth birthday.
As a betting man, Mr Nick once again makes an offer, that the first person to obtain five souls through the Imaginarium (a mirror that grants the user their desires through imagination upon stepping in) as there are choices within, will win Valentina. With the help of Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law), they must try to "collect" five souls before Mr Nick to save Dr Parnassus' daughter.
I had not read the "blurb" watching this so I pretty much had no idea what this was about, and it was about one hour into the film before all was made clear, by then I had pretty much lost interest and just waited for action, or even signs of action, to take place. Luckily, we were given a peep into the Imaginarium early on in the film and that pretty much held my intrigue throughout the movie. What is it? What does it do? Also early on, the troop picked up Tony aka Heath Ledger, who would prove to be a valued asset in obtaining souls, the actor being one of the reasons I watched this film at all.
Despite the film being extremely slow in pace, the direction was unclear and I had no idea when the climax was... I was waiting and waiting and it just didn't come. Right at the very end, when the climax was supposed to occur, the moment became so cringe-worthy. You will know if you have watched this as to what I am referring to- the "dance" sequence.
Also the themes within the movie such has Heaven and Hell, temptation, sin and the like could've been better executed. Not only was it too "tame", there was a Dogma style that made it really annoying. It never goes dark/deep enough, nor is it subtle enough, leaving the major themes stuck in limbo.
What I do have to commend in this movie is the Imaginarium itself and the potential that it had. The fantasy worlds that we were able to delve into were diverse and varied. These were the moments I paid most attention and were pretty "sucked up" into this world. The idea of stepping into a mirror that grants desire; multiple conflicting desires and imaginations has so much potential that I feel somewhat robbed after watching it not to have been fulfilled by any of it. Disney Pixar, had they gotten the rights, would've made this into an Oscar winning smash hit animation, or action adventure.
Heath Ledger- Tony
Johnny Depp- Tony
Jude Law- Tony
Colin Farrell- Tony
Lily Cole- Valentina
Also stars Andrew Garfield, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer and Paloma Faith.
I would say Heath Ledger did a pretty good job as Tony for the parts that he was able to act in. There is a quirky Captain Jack Sparrow feel to the role which when Johnny Depp stepped in for his cameo in the first imaginarium was quick to pick up; he made the role his own despite his short screen time. Jude Law suffered a bit more in my opinion and was perhaps the worst of all the Tony's. I like him, but he was wrongly miscast, at least for the segment he was given. Colin Farrell did well in the last Imaginarium sequence, perhaps due to the fact there was a darker side to it. All in all, the use of different actors for the different imaginariums worked well given the circumstances, although none of the actors were given enough screen time to shine.
Lily Cole, who plays Valentina, made the role a rather bratty one. I generally like Cole, but in this film, she was just a bit annoying, whiny and dare-I-say chavvy. Perhaps she drew inspiration from St Trinians, where she previously starred. She would've fit right into Skins. It was rather obvious the film was trying to sell her, given she had perhaps the most screen time.
Andrew Garfield made a good impression on me in this film and I wish there was more of him, but I guess I can wait for the new Spiderman, or Never Let Me Go, where he stars alongside Keira Knightley.
It was also a pleasant surprise to see Paloma Faith in the film having a cameo role. I always get her and Marina (from Marina and the diamonds) mixed up facially... but yeah, she was a nice extra; shame she didn't get to sing.
The DVD has a large amount of extra features which include several Heath Ledger ones (Interview, Wardrobe Test); Director's commentary, Deleted Scenes, Feature on the Imaginarium, "Behind the mirror" and a UK premiere featurette.
Such a shame I did not enjoy the film at all, hence giving me little/no pleasure to view these extra features.
I bought it for £6 on Amazon and I really wish I hadn't, or at least waited until it was even cheaper. If you really are interested, get it under £5.
Anticlimatic, boring and simply wasted, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus will bring no joy to adults or children, leaving you feeling robbed. Thank God Inception was released, which in a way redeems certain ideas I liked in the movie. There is a good cast, has great potential, but badly executed. Plus, the English chav accent is extremely annoying. I highly recommend not watching this; I watched it so you don't have to. Where can I get my refund?
Doctor Parnassus: Chrsitopher Plummer
Anton: Andrew Garfield
Valentina: Lily Cole
Percy: Verne Troyer
Tony: Heath Ledger
With Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a travelling show, although a not very successful one, consisting of Parnassus himself, his daughter Valentina, Percy the dwarf and Anton. Parnassus is an immortal 1000-year old trying to run away from the deal he made with the devil, Mr. Nick, some years ago when he fell in love for a mortal woman. In exchange for his youthful looks back so he could woo his love Parnassus unwittingly exchanged the life of any future child when they reached the age of 16.
Meanwhile Anton and Valentina save Tony from hanging from a bridge and he joins the show, soon turning it around into a profitable business whilst helping Parnassus win his new wager of the first to 5 soles against Mr. Nick inside the Imaginarium (which happens to be through a mirror and into the imagination of the persons own mind).
I didn't want to watch this film when there was all the hype about Heath Ledgers death so I waited until recently to sit down and watch it. Knowing the style of Terry Gilliams other films I kept an open mind about what would happen and what this film would be about and I was right to do so. This was one trippy film that you couldn't really relax to or you would lose what was going on. The acting, on the other hand, was brilliant. Each actor was perfect for their roles and Lily Cole did a great job in a major starring role seeing as though she was 'just a model' before this. Fans of Heath will be sad to find that he is not the 'star' of the film but shares just as much screen time (perhaps less because of his untimely death) as everyone else. Because of events outside the film Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell did a great turn each in playing parts of Tony that made sure the film was completed in a way that fitted with the direction of the movie.
All in all this is not a film I will find myself watching again very soon but is worth a go, especially if you're a Gilliam fan
The film was released in 2009 after the death of Heath Ledger and this was his final film. Written by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown and directed by Gilliam, it is as you would expect of a Gilliam film. Following his work as the animator on Monty Python and with films like Jabberwocky, The Brothers Grimm and Brazil to his name, this film doesn't disappoint.
The weird and wonderful imagination of Terry Gilliam is on show with a great mix of colorful panoramic views of imaginary places and is a visual treat. The acting is not bad too and with a cast including Christopher Plummer, Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law it's not surprising.
The film opens with the traveling show of Dr Parnassus (Plummer) and aged yet immortal former priest who allows his powers to be used to entertain the public when they step through a mirror into a world of their own imagination. The shabby show struggles to draw in punters though as it travels around modern London with it's bars, theatres and cinemas. Parnassus is accompanied by his teenage daughter Valentina who is about to turn 16, Anton a sleight of hand artist and Percy a friend and confidant of the Doctor.
Orlando (played by the next Spiderman Andrew Garfield) spots a figure hanging under a bridge and the troupe rescue the man. The hanging man Tony (played by Heath Ledger) is cagey and claims to have amnesia, but he does have an instant impact on the success of the show, drawing in punters to use the Imaginarium and that leads to he himself using it.
Inside the Imaginarium is not all sweetness however, there is another darker side of each person's imagination and here dwells Mr Nick (played by Tom Waits). He is after souls and if he can tempt the visitor to his side of the Imaginarium he keeps the people. In fact Mr Nick is seen in the real world too and he has a bet with Doctor Parnassus that they each need to get five souls. If Parnassus fails Mr Nick gets to keep Valentina's soul.
Ledger is very good as the secretive Tony, who pretends to have amnesia even when the troupe is confronted and chased by four gangsters. He uses the Imaginarium to escape from the reality of being on the run. Each time he enters the Imaginarium we see him change and this where Messrs Depp, Law and Farrell step in. They play the Tony of the imaginary world. Depp in particular is brilliant.
Christopher Plummer is also excellent as the wise old monk, very aged yet protective of the teenage Valentina. Lily Cole is Valentina, naive of the background to her father's long life and also a wide eyed girl looking at the world about to become a woman. Orlando loves Valentina but is unable to express his feelings and Andrew Garfield portrays this frustration really well.
The film also features Verne Troyer (Mini Me from Austin Powers) and as previously mentioned the excellent Tom Waits as the gravel voiced devil, brilliant subdued malevolence.
Run time 119 minutes. Certificate 12. Rated 7.2 on IMDB.com. For me 8/10.
Set in London, present day. Dr Parnassus is a 1,000 year old man who runs a small touring theatre with a dwarf named Percy, Anton and his daughter Valentina. This theatre company isn't successful and don't make much money. Many centuries ago Parnassus made a deal with the devil, that once his daughter turned 16 she would belong to the devil, but Parnassus can stop this only if he gets 5 people to view the Imaginarium. One night, while the cart is crossing the bridge, someone is hanging under the bridge, Valentina and Anton rescue him. His name is Tony, and Parnassus sees marks on Tony' forehead which could mean that he have compact with the devil. Find out what happens in this spell-binding, action-packed, up-side down adventure.
Dr Parnassus - Christopher Plummer
Tony - Heath Ledger
Anton - Andrew Garfield
Valentina - Lily Cole
Percy - Verne Troyer
Mr Nick, the devil - Tom Waits
Tony 1 - Johnny Depp
Tony 2 - Jude Law
Tony 3 - Colin Farrell
directed by Terry Gilliam
runtime: 122 minutes
release date: 16th October 2009 (cinema) 30th March 2010 (DVD)
Sadly this is Heath Ledger's last ever film. He passed away half way through this film (January 2008) so Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell step into his shoes to finish this film and dedicate this film to his memory.
As a fan of Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp and (to an extent) Terry Gilliam, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus was a film I was dying to see. For one reason or another I never got around to seeing it in cinemas so I was very glad to receive it through the post the other day!
The film stars Christopher Plummer as the Doctor himself, a man who once won a bet with the Devil (Tom Waits), but was rash enough to bet again, this time trading immortality and youth for the promise that his firstborn child would become the property of the Devil on his or her 16th birthday. Fast forward a few years and the child, Valentina (Lily Cole), is about to turn 16. Will the Doctor be able to save her from the Devil?
I was really excited about watching this film and it certainly looked wonderful. The bright colours of the costumes and the show contrasted wildly with the rags the characters wore when they weren't performing, and looked old-fashioned in comparison to the modern-day supermarkets and shopping malls at which they performed. The real triumph was the world behind the mirror: the giant jellyfish, the elephant monastery, the river that transformed into a snake: these were all magnificent.
The plot itself was quite different, and I thought the acting was excellent. Choosing four different actors to play the role that originally belonged to Heath Ledger was a stroke of brilliance, and all four - Heath, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell - added something different to the role. Christopher Plummer was not what I expected as a doddery, alcoholic Dr Parnassus, and Tom Waits was unusual too as a smooth-talking Devil. The supporting actors, from model Lily Cole to Andrew Garfield as assistant Anton added more human depth to the film.
Unfortunately, the film was let down by the story - or, to be exact, not the story itself but the way it was played out on screen. I found myself frequently confused, and sometimes had to check reviews on here or on Amazon to help me understand the plot. It was not explained very well and the flashbacks leaped about all over the place. I thought the ending was rushed and just added to the confusion, though the final scenes made a bit more sense.
Overall, I was quite disappointed with this film. On paper it sounded excellent but it didn't really work. That said, I would consider watching it again in case I understood it better the second time around. I would tentatively recommend the film, it's certainly worth a watch but can be confusing.
The films of the American director and writer Terry Gilliam are usually 'interesting' to say the least. Whilst some of the ex-Monty Python man's work is without doubt underrated, other Gilliam projects are simply shambolic. Personally, I have found Gilliam's output of late to be a little disappointing, and would honestly class 2005's 'Tideland' as one of the worst films I have ever seen. Gilliam's latest directorial work 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' was always going to take centre stage in the media spotlight, as it happened to be the film that the late Australian actor Heath Ledger was working on at the time of his death.
Billed as a modern day fairytale utilising a plethora of computer generated imagery, the story centres on a small group of performers who journey up and down the country with their fairground-esque traveling show. The main attraction is the aging 'Doctor Parnassus' (Christopher Plummer) and his walk-through mirror which leads to an alternate reality. Traveling with Parnassus is his teenage daughter 'Valentina' (Lily Cole), her friend 'Anton' (Andrew Garfield), and the small but confident showman 'Percy' (Verne Troyer). Unfortunately, the dastardly 'Mr Nick', a.k.a The Devil (Tom Waits), is hot on the trail of our motley crew, with his sights firmly set on Valentina's soul. The story takes another turn for the unusual when an amnesiac called Tony (Heath Ledger) is found hanging from the underside of a bridge. Tony claims to remember nothing of his past existence, but does he actually know more that he is letting on...?
If you're watching the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus on DVD, you will be presented with an option to watch a short introduction from Gilliam himself. Gilliam performed a similar introduction at the start of Tideland, and in that case, it seemed like an apology for the poor quality of the following film. Thankfully, here Gilliam simply takes the opportunity to remember Heath Ledger, and talk through some of the difficulties that the production faced. To be honest, this intro *isn't* a must-see, but may be of interest to die-hard Gilliam fans.
What initially surprised me about 'The Imaginarium' was how very British the production was - I assumed it was going to be a thoroughly Hollywood affair considering the sheer amount of stars on display - yet the overall feel is small scale and theatrical. From a directorial perspective, the Imaginarium is quite simply all over the place - Gilliam wanted to create a brand new tale in its own right, rather than adapting a pre-existing story to film. Because of this, the plot is a bit of a mixed bag, and doesn't really flow as it should. It's almost like a movie which has been directed by a child - there are loads of big ideas, yet the nuances of putting together a decent film are all but lacking.
From an acting perspective, I would love to have said that Heath Ledger's final performance was 'exceptional', 'brilliant', 'wonderful', or any other superlative - yet, I personally found it to be a bit average. Ledger's lines are frequently delivered in a rather awkward manner, and whilst this was undoubtedly the directors intention in places, for the most part it just doesn't work. Similarly, Ledger's accent is rather odd, and he keeps slipping into different dialects. As Health Ledger didn't complete his acting duties before his death, the movie utilises a series of big-name cameos in order to finish the film - there's Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law, each taking turns to put in a stint as the character of Tony. In theory, this is a interesting way to flesh out the remainder of the movie, but on paper it actually works to the film's disadvantage. When the first of the cameos (Johnny Depp) briefly takes on the part of Tony, the difference in acting ability between himself and Ledger is clear to see. Depp is smooth and sophisticated, holding the viewers attention, and demonstrating that the film could have been much better had he been given the entire role to begin with.
As the film's 'bad-guy', Tom Waits is especially impressive as Mr Nick. With his thin moustache and sleazy nature, the character is probably the film's most watcheable individual. Waites was a great choice for the part as he brings across about a rogueish charm, and is ultimately very charismatic. In the film's eponymous role, I wasn't especially impressed with Christopher Plummer as Dr Parnassus - Plummer doesn't really do anything wrong, but I would describe the performance as solid rather than exceptional. To be honest, I think it's more down to the way the character was written, and as a viewer I sensed no real anxiety from him relating to his daughters safety.
If I had to summarise The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus in one word, the word would have to 'interesting'. From the trailers, I was expecting a very different film to the one I actually saw. I predicted vast fantasy vistas and impossible landscapes, and although these did feature to an extent, the general tone was much more intimate and character driven. Whilst I undoubtedly enjoyed the film, I also found myself annoyed in places due to a sloppy plot and a general lack of structure. Definitely one to see, but to be honest it's not brilliant, and is exactly what I expected from Gilliam.
- - - - - -
Heath Ledger - Tony
Andrew Garfield - Anton
Christopher Plummer - Doctor Parnassus
Richard Riddell - Martin
Lily Cole - Valentina
Verne Troyer - Percy
Johnny Depp - Imaginarium Tony 1
Jude Law - Imaginarium Tony 2
Colin Farrell - Imaginarium Tony 3
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus can currently be purchased for £10.20 from amazon.co.uk.
The thing that appealed to me about this film was the title; it just sounded so enchanting. I was unsure of the director, but as it was only a few quid I thought I would give it a go. To be honest I ended up wishing I hadn't bothered.
This film is a quirky tale from the director Terry Gilliam, and it centres on the title character Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and the devil strangely known as Mr. Nick (Tom Waits). For some unknown reason these two characters meet up and make bets with each other to win the souls of everyday folk. The doctor uses the power of his imagination to purify and enlighten them while Mr. Nick plays on people's fears and ignorance to lure them to hell.
I will introduce the story the way it should have been in the film, rather than the jumbled and disjointed fashion that it turned out. I have described the storyline in some detail because I think it's more of a subplot and isn't that important in the movie. I think that Gilliam is trying to focus on his visualisations of the mind and subsequently neglects the story. I think that knowing this much about the story before watching will help you to follow the on-screen action. If you don't want to know the story then i suggest you skip to the end.
Thousands of years ago Dr. Parnassus is a monk preaching a story which he thinks keeps the universe alive. The devil enters the monastery (don't know why!), disproves the doctor's theory and suggests their first bet to win twelve souls. The doctor wins and as his prize he takes the thing he covets most; everlasting life. Unfortunately for him it doesn't work out the way he imagined. Through the centuries his storytelling declines and fewer people stop to listen. He becomes old, unkempt, scruffy and depressed. He begins to drink a lot and concludes that immortality is actually a curse.
One day, all old and tattered, while trying to preach his story he sets eyes on a beautiful young woman. He falls for her and decides to make a new deal with the devil. The doctor wants to be young and attractive again so that he can woo the lady. In exchange for this he would have to surrender any children he fathered, to the devil on their 16th birthday. The doctor got his lady and sure enough she got pregnant (at 60 years of age bizarrely!!!). His wife died during labour but their daughter, Valentina, survived.
The story moves on to the present day in London and Dr. Parnassus is still trying to purify souls with his mind but is struggling to find custom amongst the over-exuberant, loud-mouthed members of the modern society. He has a travelling show and lives in a large horse-drawn carriage which folds out into his stage. He is aided by his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), his good friend and loyal assistant Percy (Verne Troyer) (who was also with him at the monastery, so he must have somehow been blessed with immortality aswell!) and Anton (Andrew Garfield) who looks like some stray.
The show works by enticing members of the public to part with £5 to take a ride through their imagination controlled by Parnassus. The doctor sits in a trance and a gateway is opened to the minds of the people passing through, this is the Imaginarium. The worlds depicted inside the Imaginarium are wonderful. Gilliam creates amazing depictions of the thoughts, dreams and fantasies of the minds of the people passing through. I think the main feature of this film is the Imaginarium and the way that Terry Gilliam seeks to portray the workings and manipulation of the mind.
While travelling one night the troop stumble across a man hanging by a noose from a bridge. They get him down and revive him. The next day after the man has rested he is interrogated. He starts acting shifty and pretends that he can't remember anything including his own name. It turns out to be Tony (Heath Ledger) who is on the run from some Russians for laundering money through a children's charity.
Tony decides to stay with the gang (probably as cover to hide from his pursuers) and offers to help them attract more customers as a gesture of good will for saving his life. Tony starts to breathe new life into the show and they start to earn more money.
Valentina's 16th birthday is just days away and the doctor and the devil have another bet to give the doctor a chance at rescuing his daughter; first to win five souls.
And so it goes on. More bets are placed, people go in and out of the Imaginarium and the doctors crew all fall about and argue. It isn't very inspiring and for me it wasn't very enjoyable.
As you are probably aware Heath Ledger tragically died during production of this film. His character, Tony, is subsequently played by Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell. This actually works quite well because, in the minds of others, Tony is made to look different each time he enters the Imaginarium.
The acting in this film was not great for me. Andrew Garfield was annoying and Lily Cole was just not believable, although she did look the part. Christopher Plummer was clumsy and the various actors playing Tony didn't add anything to the part or the film. The two performances that stood out for me were Verne Troyer with his comedy who made me laugh every time he opened his mouth and cracked his whip and Tom Waits who really seemed to grasp the role and play it as it should have been.
I think Gilliam was preoccupied with the Imaginarium and completely forgot about the story and the acting. There was no sense of satisfaction at the end and I just felt it was a couple of hours wasted. I suppose there will be some who will enjoy the experience but for me it was just pointless. Unless you're desperate to see Heath Ledger in his final performance (even though it isn't that good) then I suggest you give this one a miss.
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeown
Genre: Fantasy - Mystery - Adventure
Christopher Plummer [Doctor Parnassus]
Lily Cole [Valentina]
Andrew Garfield [Anton]
Verne Troyer [Percy]
Tom Waits [Mr. Nick]
Heath Ledger [Tony]
Johnny Depp [Imaginarium Tony #1]
Jude Law [Imaginarium Tony #2]
Colin Farrell [Imaginarium Tony #3]
A sideshow troupe travelling through London promises people an incredible journey based on their greatest dreams/aspirations, a journey that will change their lives forever... often for the better... sometimes for the worse.
Possessing the incredible ability to turn dreams into reality [the reality exists only behind the giant mirror that appears on the small stage, and each reality differs from the next depending on the person who has entered into the mirror], Doctor Parnassus, who claims to be over a thousand years old, attempts to purify the souls of those willing to enter into the mirror during a spiritual [not supernatural] séance where they are inevitably given the opportunity to experience their dreams/aspirations, and to choose either the road that leads to their salvation, or the road that leads to their eternal damnation.
When a devilish character shows up in order to claim the prize he won from Doctor Parnassus following a bet, Doctor Parnassus sinks into despair with a bottle of strong liquor, leaving Valentina [his daughter], Anton [a young man rescued from the streets] and Percy [his friend/companion] to deal with the mess he has made of his life.
When the troupe comes upon a mysterious man hanging under a bridge and they rescue him, their lives are immediately changed... but not necessarily for the better.
Doctor Parnassus, played by the extremely talented Christopher Plummer, is a strange character. He claims to be over a thousand years old [he actually looks it, too], and tells stories of how he is immortal, and how his life was forever changed with the arrival of Mr. Nick. Although often drunk and garrulous, he is nonetheless a caring man who wants, more than anything, to help people make the right choices in their lives.
Valentina, played by Lily Cole [St. Trinian's], is sweet, innocent and incredibly naïve, yet she is also spirited and prepared to fight for what she wants. She is on the verge of turning sixteen, and to her this magical age is one that signifies changes. She possesses her own dreams... dreams that have nothing to do with her strange father or the freakish sideshow she is invisibly chained to. She wants safety and security, a home with a loving husband and children, and the only way she is ever going to live her dreams is if she runs away.
Anton, played by Andrew Garfield [Lion's for Lambs], was rescued by Doctor Parnassus from the streets when he was just a boy. He is desperately in love with Valentina, but she does not return his feelings.
Percy, played by Verne Troyer [Austin Powers], is Doctor Parnassus's long-time friend and companion. He is the voice of reason, the one who brings clarity to Doctor Parnassus's often troubled thoughts, and is the one to inevitably pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
Mr. Nick, played by Tom Waits [Mystery Men], isn't a 'saint'... he is, in actual fact, the devil. He is a sly and slithery character who loves making bets, especially with Doctor Parnassus.
Tony, played by Heath Ledger [who sadly passed away on the 22nd January, 2008], is a nebulous character. Found hanging from a bridge, he claims to be suffering from amnesia. He is incredibly friendly and charming, and he manages to change the troupe's luck by drawing in paying customers and changing the 'look' and 'feel' of the sideshow. Although Valentina is quick to trust him, the others in the troupe are not.
Johnny Depp [Imaginarium Tony #1] - Jude Law [Imaginarium Tony #2] - Colin Farrell [Imaginarium Tony #3]... putting in appearances following the death of Heath Ledger who had not yet completed filming on the movie, they are the 'physical' aspects of Tony's nature. Johnny Depp plays the charming and gallant side of Tony, the one that shows a sensitive and caring nature when Tony is inside the Imaginarium [inside the mirror]. Jude Law is the somewhat twitchy and exuberant side of Tony, the one who is eager to try new things, and is highly excitable when he succeeds. He, too, is only visible inside the Imagiarium. Colin Farrell is the cold and calculating side of Tony, a cruel and manipulative man who is only visible in physical form inside the Imaginarium.
COMMENTS - OPINION:
I had such high hopes for this movie, not only because it was Heath Ledger's last, but also because it included a few of my favourite actors... mainly Johnny Depp and Jude Law. I was not disappointed by this movie - not 'entirely'- but I was made to feel that the storyline was shadowed in secrecy... not in order to heighten the 'mystery', but because it was perhaps nonexistent from the start.
Yes, concessions to the storyline had to be made following Heath Ledger's death, but these concessions ended up improving the story. Introducing a trio of 'physical' characters to delve into the multiple facets/aspects of the main character was something I found quite ingenious and extremely interesting... in fact, it was the thing I found to be the MOST interesting in this film. Which, obviously, doesn't say much for the original script/storyline that would not have focused on these hidden facets of Tony's true nature, and therefore would not have given this character such depth.
My second favourite thing about this movie was the atmosphere, that dingy and dangerous side of London that comes out to play when the sun goes down... the revellers leaving the pubs, the aggressive drunks who think they own the streets, the chaos that is borne of too much drink and too little intelligence. Doctor Parnassus focuses on this modern society made up of binge drinkers who turn into immoral and licentious curs or blubbering idiots depending on their level of drunkenness, and the dark alleys and abandoned holes they lurk in. This darkness and dissolution of society colours every scene, making everything look slightly bleak, and the 'feeling' of being back in Victorian England with its billowing smokestacks of burning black coal, alleyways similar to those that 'Jack the Ripper' hunted in, and poverty-stricken districts is intense and overwhelming. The atmosphere is incredibly heavy, and although it is sometimes temperamental it is never light.
There isn't much to dislike about this movie... apart from the fact that there isn't much of a storyline. The acting is incredibly good, believable, and although Tony with his different character appearances [Depp, Law and Farrell] possesses a depth to him that is not present in any of the others, there is enough depth in the other characters to make them all seem real... or as real as possible considering the fact that they are a touch eccentric.
The special-effects are average, and although the settings are fairytale-ish in appearance, much like in the US television series 'Pushing Up Daisies', or like the set of 'Alice In Wonderland', it isn't something wholeheartedly appealing... sometimes it looked more like a close-up of one of those pop-up books intended for children, and at other times the cardboard cut-outs of trees was slightly inane [although I do get the fact that it was probably intended to blend in with the sideshow's stage décor].
All in all, there is enough happening within the 123 minute runtime to captivate audiences... added to this a few visually enticing settings, a quirky [yet underdeveloped] storyline and a few totally eccentric characters, and you've got yourself an entertaining film that is worth watching.
The Facts: Certificate - 12, Running Time - 119 Minutes, Genre - Fantasy / Adventure
The Plot: Doctor Parnassus is an immortal who travels the land with the most magical of fairground attractions - an imaginarium in which the visitors can see his or her deepest desires laid out in a wonderfully colourful reality. Due to a misconcieved deal with the devil, however, the Doctor finds himself in a battle to save the life and soul of his young daughter!
To ward of this impending threat, Parnassus wages his skill at enticing willing punters into his imaginarium against the devil's ability to take souls in a battle to end all battles!
My Review: This is a challenging film to summarise and review as the plot is so fantastic and bizarre that to succinctly sum it up would take many hours! Suffice to say that it is a highly original and well-delivered tale of adventure which is presented onto the screen by some of the best actors around.
Rising to infamy as the last film of the late Heath Ledger (who is brilliant in this!), the film also has star turns from Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp.
I'd personally say that Terry Gilliam films are something of an acquired taste for those who've not experienced them before. However, suspension of disbelief is easy for most fans, and the journey into Gilliam's world of magic and fantasy is most rewarding.
I'm a huge fan of fantasy films and a Heath Ledger fan so this was something that I definitely wanted to watch, especially so because the trailers made it look so weird, which I love.
The film is about Doctor Parnassus who travels around London with his daughter, Valentina, and trusty side-kicks, entertaining the public with their magic. But when the devil arrives at the Doctor's door wanting to claim on a deal that they made many years ago, the Doctor has to try to find another soul for the devil to take instead of taking his daughter.
The entire film is just so magical and I really don't think this is the kind of thing that non-fantasy fans will enjoy. The fantasy in this is far too magical and over-the-top for you to properly get into unless you are a real fan of the fantasy genre.
The special effects are so brilliant and, even though there are plenty of parts that obviously are not real, it actually seems to all look very realistic and as if the characters are actually there.
The actors are all absolutely amazing too with a brilliant cast list including Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who all play the same character. It was quite sad watching Heath Ledger in this as it's the last film he made and it's quite obvious that the other characters were only cast in because of his death, but I think that this actually made the film a lot more interesting to keep seeing this one character switching faces and personalities.
The main story is a little confusing and is does get a little bit lost in all the mind-boggling special effects and side stories of all the other characters but, despite this, I thought it was a fantastic film. I was completely captivated the whole way through and I would thoroughly recommend it to any fans of fantasy films.
I was a bit late watching this film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, at the cinema but it''s only just been released here in Warsaw. As you know from some of my film reviews I quite like a fanciful, tale with strong visuals. I also love Tom Waites and Johnny Depp but I'm not that keen on Terry Gilliam as a director but I thought, hey, it's a New Year - let's give the guy a break seeing that he hasn't made a decent film for over 10 years.
So what is the tale about? It's a story that takes place inside the imaginative head of Doctor Parnassus, of course, and about life in London as we have never seen it before - you know, the London we don't see in guide books.
The Imaginarium is a bit of a circus, theatre, a travelling show. The cast consists of the Doctor (Christopher Plummer) himself, his right hand man, Percy (Verne Troyer), a kid he saved from the streets, Anton (Andrew Garfield) and his pretty daughter who is very nearly sweet sixteen, Valentina (Lily Cole). They are a ragbag of scallies, travelling through in their colourful painted wagon stopping along the way to set up their show and inviting punters to part with 5 pounds of their hard earned cash and enter the weird and wonderful mind of Doctor Parnassus.
The doctor is a sad and ancient man and loves a tipple or two of alcohol. The stronger the better. He made a deal with Satan, Mr Nick (Tom Waites), to acquire everlasting life for what he seeks the most. But the imagination of the Doctor which is obtainable through a weak and fragile glass-like door - is an imaginary place full of wonders and marvels that changes to whatever the person entering wants the most.
The Doctor's lovely daughter, Valentina, has been brainwashed by the magazines she reads and her wish in life is to escape and live the life of glamour she reads about.
One day, the gay and jolly troupe come across a torso swinging from the bridge and they decide to rescue it. The body belongs to Tony (Heath Ledger). However, Tony can't remember a thing. He hasn't a clue who he is or where he came from until he sees a picture on the front of a newspaper above a headline that informs its readers about a dishonoured charity director. The photo fits his face and jogs his memory.
To keep away from the prying press he joins the colourful troupe. He even has some imaginative ideas of how to upgrade the show and attract more punters. Doctor Parnassus is pleased with this idea. Remember, he made the bet with the devil himself, Mr Nick. This is when the show begins................
Well, as you may all know this was the last film Heath Ledger starred in as he died after the first lot of shooting in New York. His death has made him into something of a cult figure. I have never been that mad on Ledger - dead or alive. Okay, so he was great in The Dark Night but was he? - anyone can wear a mask and look good in it - even Jack Nicholson. His performance in this film is okay but nothing more and I really don't like his accent - it makes me cringe.
Three actors who stepped into his role were Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp. All played their parts well but drowned a little in the whimsical haze of Gilliam's direction. Handsome Johnny was the superior one - looking like he did in Chocolat only a little older. Depp excels at being wacky and he is one of these actors who can wear anything and look good in it. I love the hair tied back and the white suit. His eyes express so many emotions and some of the facial expressions were hilarious. His clipped English accent was very good. He always like working with Gilliam - why, I will never know. So my big question - is why didn't Gilliam give him the lead role because he has more charisma than the other actors including Ledger put together.
Christopher Plummer plays the role of Parnassus well looking like a cross between Tom Baker (when he was Dr Who) and that silly old fool out of Lord of the Rings. Can't remember his name - oh yes, Gandalf. However, after a while I became bored with the slowness of speech and movements of the head of Parnassus and just wanted to speed the movie reel up.
Jude Law was okay but didn't have the panache of Depp and somehow his face shape wasn't streamlined enough - it was too fat.
Colin Farrell, I love in most of his comedic roles but although he looked the part he just didn't cut the mustard.
Lily Cole who played Valentina isn't an actress I know a lot about. I have to say I wasn't that impressed. Her squeaky voice annoyed me from the start and the scene in the boat with Ledger was very limp.
Apart from Depp the outstanding character and actor was Tom Waites. I was amazed to see him looking so well as he is a guy who has had some ups and downs in his life. I have always loved the boozey and smokey tonal quality of his voice and that pale, washed out, sophisticated face. The last image I had when leaving the cinema was of Mr Nick taunting Parnassus. I loved him.
Who haven't I mentioned - oh nearly forgot - the director. Mmmm! Well if you love Monty Python this film will make you smile and you will be able to trace back elements of his work with Python and a few of his flops that followed after. As an artist I can appreciate some of the images and I have to applaud him when it comes to taking a simple image and stretching it to its limit. For example; people changing into machines, huge fanciful sky balloons, numerous explosions, seas filled with nymphs. You are never quite sure whether you are dreaming or having a hellish nightmare or just on one big loony trip. But he's done it all before and there is nothing new here. Some viewers might enjoy the confusion and disorientation but I just find it boring. It is too fragmented and I am sure it must be like Gilliam's head. He has the ideas and the imagination but just can't hack it when it comes to directing.
I can appreciate the fact that it must have been a difficult film to finish once Ledger had died. There must have been a lot of different emotions running around on set but the main difficulty for me is that the film doesn't spend enough time on creating a body of myths for itself and when it does, it is constantly interrupted. Gilliam's mind is always somewhere else and not concentrating on the task in hand.
My advice is not to take this film too seriously. It's all a bit willy nilly but some of the images are interesting and fun to watch although you will recognise them from other pieces of Gilliam's portfolio. Depp is lovely but then I would say that and Tom Waites is the best thing about the film. He handles himself with such decorum and his words of gravel are a delight to the tympanic membrane.
This is a PG 13 rating. There is some strong language and violent, sensual images. And just to show that I can be PC there are people smoking!!??
Runtime is 2 hours and 2 minutes (too long).
How many stars - 2 ( one for Depp and one for Tom Waites)
Last word - not a great film but if you like fantasy and a fragmented story line then you will enjoy this. More effective at the cinema.
There are only a handful of Directors whose names can be used as an adjective. State something is "Hitchcock-ian" and we know to expect a dark full tale of intrigue, whilst it is almost compulsory to describe bloody crime thrillers as "Tarantino-esque".
Terry Gilliam is another whose mere name evokes such expectations: the blending of the old with the new, the fantastical with the mundane; sumptuous visuals of the imagination contrasting with the humdrum greys and browns of real life. These are all typically "Gilliam-esque"
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus might be attracting attention as the film Heath Ledger final film, but in all other regards it is resolutely a Terry Gilliam film. The visual style, showing a director with a vision greater than his budget, the incredible (sometimes baffling) flights of fancy, the identification with the outcasts of society; even the frustrating sense that the film almost touches genius on a number of occasions, but always falls just maddeningly short: it's Gilliam through and through.
All of which is a somewhat long-winded way of saying if you don't like Terry Gilliam films, Dr Parnassus will not change your mind and if you've never seen one, you might find it's not your cup of tea.
The essential plot surrounds an on-going bet between an ancient monk now living in twenty-first century London (Dr Parnassus) and The Devil (affectionately known as Mr Nick). To win the bet, each must win an agreed number of souls. Dr Parnassus harnesses the power of the imagination to entice people, Mr Nick simply tempts them. The prize? Parnassus' 16 year old daughter.
All of which is simply an excuse for Gilliam to once again dive into the power of the mind, considering the reality gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us, the constant moral battle between good and evil and the essentially conflicted nature of man, the fight between the mundane and the spectacular; all very Gilliam-esque themes that will be familiar to his fans.
This is probably all starting to sound rather heavy and metaphysical and there is no doubt that Dr Parnassus is considered, intelligent and thought-provoking (some will say slow). It asks lots of questions and doesn't provide any easy answers: this is both Gilliam's blessing and his curse. He is a highly intelligent director with a fertile imagination and strong vision, who refuses to serve up multiplex friendly fare. If you are ready to be challenged and don't want to just stare slack-jawed at the screen whilst stuffing popcorn in your gob, then Dr Parnassus may well be the film for you.
Married to the intelligent, thought-provoking script are some stunning visuals Modern day London is shown as all greys and browns, mud and rain. Enter the Imaginarium, however, and you are only limited by your imagination. Here the film explodes into day-glo colour with incredible images filling up the screen, bursting with joy whilst, (this being a Gilliam film, remember) always maintaining a slightly sinister edge. It's an explosion of joy, an assault on the senses and one which perfectly captures both the limitless power of the imagination and the on-going fight between good and evil.
Again, this is a double edged sword. The scenes in the Imaginarium allow Gilliam to indulge his sense of theatrics and the visually bizarre. At the same time, these sequences will simply prove too weird for some and reduce the film to a pile of incoherent nonsense. This is very much one of those films that you either get or you don't. Whilst there is a coherent narrative thread running through the film, it often veers off in wild directions that will have some viewers transfixed and leave others cold.
Equally, the film does over-stretch itself (another Gilliam trademark). At times you can see where the budget wasn't big enough to match his imagination. Some of the visuals look a little set-bound; others a little too obviously computer generated, leaving the human actors looking lost. The sheer amount of visual effects can also mean that the film becomes an assault upon the senses and you reach a point where you think your brain might possibly explode with the sheer relentlessness of Gilliam's vision. In this respect, the film is also a little too long.
But what of the cast? The biggest complement you can give is that Heath Ledger is not missed. In the scenes in which he appears, he is as excellent as ever, reminding us of how many great films he might have made had he lived. Yet Gilliam and his cast do a superb job of covering up his absence. His sudden transformation into Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell respectively is highly logical (within the overall context of the film) and you scarcely notice the join where Ledger "becomes" someone else. That's how seamless both the writing and the performances are. Depp brings his usual quirky style to proceedings, yet can turn to his darker side when required; Colin Farrell is superb as the roguish, manipulative side of Ledger's character and his portrayal of the character is arguably the strongest; even Jude Law (an actor I don't particularly rate) is acceptable - although his segment is noticeably the weakest.
Despite this array of talent it's two veterans who really steal the show. Christopher Plummer adds to his already long list of memorable characters as the titular Dr Parnassus. Inscrutable, yet never infuriating, Plummer turns in a beautifully nuanced performance as a man tired of life, who nevertheless cannot help getting drawn into playing games with Mr Nick.
Tom Waits, meanwhile, as Mr Nick aka The Devil is in inspired form. Playing him as a 1920s gangster/spiv, Waits perfectly captures the ingratiating nature, the wheedling ways and the soothing mellow voice you might expect such a character to have. It's easy to see why Parnassus is duped by him time and time again, and Waits even has time to make Mr Nick likeable, not purely manipulative and evil. It's this pair - and the symbiotic link between them - which more than anything provides this film with a strong sense of humanity to counter-balance the visual spectacular.
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus is clearly not going to be to everyone's tastes. Brilliant, but flawed; thought-provoking but frustrating with a strong visual identity that sometimes threatens to overwhelm with its intensity. Yep, this is a Terry Gilliam film, all right! If you're fed up of watching things explode, cars chase other cars or people do highly implausible things like save the world with just a rubber band and a small carrot, give The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus a go. You might not like it, but at least it offers something different.
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
Director: Terry Gilliam
Running time: approx. 123 minutes
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