The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
I have always been a huge fan of Terry Gilliam. From the early days of Monty Python and his strangely weird yet enthralling animation right on through to one of the most compelling sci-fi films of our time in “Twelve Monkeys”. He is the sort of director who works very hard to set the scene and deliver something that you weren’t expecting. So it makes sense that The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus would be another of those eclectic journeys through a strange combination of reality and farfetched fiction painted on a colourful backdrop of crazy locations and captivating characters.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantastical good verses evil tale, set in current times. It tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary ‘Imaginarium’, which is a travelling show where members of the audience get a ‘hard to resist’ chance to choose between good (light and joy) or evil (darkness and gloom).
As the story unfolds we see a wonderful array of intriguing characters parading around us in spectacular costume and amidst gloriously tantalising surroundings. It all starts with an old drunk called Dr Parnassus, a man who
has made a deal with the devil himself trading immortality for soul of his first born child. Hundreds of years later he tours the world with a strangely appealing collection of misfits putting on these side shows from the back of their multi-levelled truck on side streets and carparks across England. Along the way they find a stranger (Heath Ledger) hanging from under a bridge, whom they rescue only to find that his lack of memory leads them on a journey of successes and failures, ups and downs, gain and loss.
Without giving away any of this weird and wonderful plot line (Which in itself is not too complex or even that deep- but is enough to stitch together such a wonderful array of special effects and classy acting performances from some of today’s most enthralling actors)
As the audience of this travelling show one by one enter into the Imaginarium, they enter into a mystical world of the mind of Dr Parnassus which is directed by their own thoughts, dreams and even temptations. A world where this mysterious amnesiac stranger, far too easily finds himself completely at home. This premise of course leads to a stunning visual display that could normally only be dreamed of in our own world of slumber.
I am sure that you have all had those dreams where you transition from crazy location to crazy location with ease as those around you seem to not really fit with the surroundings you find yourself in. Well that is what this film is like. A free flowing dream from one place to the next.
Now just case you didn’t know some of the background to the production of this film here it is. The late Heath Ledger died during the filming of this movie, which of course left it hanging in the balance and had it been any other director most likely out for the count. However the creative genius of Terry Gilliam devised an additional premise that enabled him to complete the film and bring it even more to life. When Heath’s Character enters into the imaginarium his appearance alters. His hair, his facial hair and clothes remain the same but his face and even slight mannerisms change. This of course leads us to his wonderful co-actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin
Farrell. Each taking up the part instantly when asked by Terry Gilliam. I am sure that Johnny Depp particularly knows the frustration of working on a film with Terry only to have it destroyed by disaster after disaster. Johnny Depp worked in terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”, a film that has never been completely due to flooding, funding issues and even lead actors with major back injuries. If you would like to see more of this filming struggle rent the documentary “Lost in La Mancha” which started out as a short documentary to go alongside the film but ended up as a fulllength feature documentary, and of course the only film to be released out of this production. However in very fresh news production is about to start up again on this film and if all goes to plan it might even make it out in
In the meantime, for now you can lose yourself in the epically transcendental world of Dr Parnassus.
10 out of 10 stars
Age12+ Due to general adult themes and medium violence
Reviewed by: Jon E Clist
Releases: 5th November 2009
Rating: PG- Contains Violence
Running time: 122 minutes
Genre: Comedy Drama
Starring: Heath Ledger, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Jude Law & Lily Cole
Director: Terry Gilliam