Film & TV

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus Review

Those who are familiar with Terry Gilliam’s work already will have an inkling of what to expect with this one. For those who aren’t, this film will be quite an experience. Perhaps if I tell you that Gilliam has directed such films as Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and created the bizarre animation sequences in Monty Python you might have some idea of what to expect.

Firstly I feel that The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus has had unfairly high expectations placed upon it. The death of Heath Ledger will lead many people to believe that his last film will automatically amount to his best performance. Unfortunately this is not the case. Although his performance in the film is an accomplished one, it is not quite up to scratch compared to his iconic portrayal of the Joker or his performance in Brokeback Mountain; and it is for those roles he will be most fondly be remembered for.

Now, back to the film in hand. One of the main words you will hear from people describing this film is “weird”. The sets and general plotline are undeniably quirky but the ending will leave many confused over whether they “got it” or if there was even anything to “get”.

The story focuses on Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his travelling “Imaginarium” which is a portal into the users greatest imaginations and desires. In his youth Dr Parnassus had made a bet with the devil to become immortal on the condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday he or she would become the property of the devil. As his daughter approaches 16, Dr Parnassus re-negotiates the deal so that the first person to seduce 5 souls (the devil with temptation and the Dr with imagination) will win his daughter. Dr Parnassus also offers his daughters hand in marriage to the man who helps him win this bet, one of them being Ledger, a man they encounter on their travels, the other is Anton, the faithful worker on Dr Parnassus’ Imaginarium.

The performances are very strong and Lilly Cole’s turn as the daughter is surprisingly good as were Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp who all portray Ledger’s character eerily similarly. The fact that Ledger died before the film was finished is also dealt with well as his appearance changes in the Imaginarium depending on who’s imagination it is. But the fact is that the confusing storyline and distinctly average script are just not good enough to make the film great, no matter how good the acting is. It is one of the strangest films I have seen in a long time and it is difficult to find a moral subject, or indeed a point to the whole story, entertaining though it is. Overall it is worth seeing, if only to see Heath Ledger’s final performance.

Rosie Kinsella

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Minni
    28 November 2009 at 09:33
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    I am sad for you that you did not “get” this movie. It may be weird,but its weird in a good way. The way most Gilliam movies are.You cannot find the moral subject or the point? There were very clear signs (literally like the third eye,the hanged man,the serpent,plus mysticism and masonic symbols) all the way through. The plot is a very basic old tale,kind of biblical between good and evil,light and dark.Tony represents us,everyone, and we need to look into ourselves ,as the mirror symbolizes.To really see ourselves and to stop being hung up on light and dark and all the distractions in life.Its about the search for peace and redemption,we need to stop searching because its already there,inside us. It is a beautiful shot film, absolutely gorgeous to watch! The music took my breath away. I did find it was a little slow in parts, but other than that I loved it. Heath Ledger was gave us one of his best performances, right up there with BBM! I hope his performance will put to rest all the made up garbage about him doing drugs.He was as clear headed as ever and on top of his game,despite not feeling well. I thank Terry Gilliam and all the rest who worked so hard to give us this masterpiece and I hope people will go see it and for their own opinion. Movie critics these days just love to pick holes in everything,only seeing the imperfections and never the best bits. Heath, you are missed.

  • Charlotte
    1 December 2009 at 18:38
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    The most crucial element of any film is the screen play, and spectacle and ‘masterpiece’ aside, it is the screen play that let ‘Imaginarium’ as a film down. It was fantastic insomuch as the actors playing the roles outshone the actual plot of the film- again, this is not neccesarily a positive attribute. I don’t think Heath Ledger’s last performance should be all about the fact it was his LAST; I don’t think it was neccesarily his best but was brilliant, and subsequently should be judged without a posthumous autopsy.
    I personally don’t believe there is a way to “get” this film, which only adds to its wonderful ambiguity.

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