Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Film Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)


I approached Terry Gilliam's new film with excitement and caution. Knowing this would be Heath Ledger's final film role seems to have cast a sense of doom over it's initial release. Ledger had only completed several of the shots before his tragic death earlier this year.

However; with scenes cleverly written for Ledger's character, Tony, which entail him changing his appearance when entering the imaginarium. The films scenes are linked seamlessly and add much to its character and humour.

The Plot of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The plot follows the immortal 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus who leads a traveling theatre troupe, which includes a sleight of hand expert, Anton, a dwarf, Percy and the Doctor's beautiful daughter Valentina. From place to place Doctor Parnassus offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality via a magical mirror in his possession.

This has been made possible through a deal Parnassus made with the Devil,who has now returned to collect five souls by arrangement, targeting the Doctor's daughter, Valentina.

The troupe happen upon a mysterious outsider named Tony who has a secret past but may be able to help the Doctor save his daughter through the parallel worlds the mirror leads him to.

The Cast Of The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus

Christopher Plummer is wonderful as Parnassuss, immortal wizard seeking a solution of trying to escape from his pact with Tom Waits devil, but frequently succumbing to the temptation of the bottle. Equally entertaining is Verne Troyer as the comedic dwarf Percy who makes up for in character presence in what he lacks in height.

Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield steal the film as Valentina and Anton. Cole has some wonderful scenes both as the Doctor's daughter wanting to find her own feet in the world and pursuing a life of ideal home happiness and the heroine in constant danger of been seduced by the Waits devil or indeed Ledger's own anti-hero.

Garfield shows heroic tendencies from the outset, Anton although often rebuked by the other members of the troupe, comes across as a believable fighter and certainly the hero of the hour.

A classic mix of ancient and modern imagery , The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a joy to watch and yes, Terry Gilliam's influence shines throughout, particularly the scenes set behind the mirror where people experience their imaginations in alternate universe. Singing Policeman and exploding old ladies are reminiscent of the Monty Python TV sketches that so prominently featured Gilliam's own animations 40 years ago.

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus Is A Phoenix Rising From The Flames

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will no doubt be remembered as Heath Ledger's epitaph, but should also be regarded as a phoenix rising from the flames. Other films have suffered similar predicaments by losing core cast members during production , few of those have enjoyed memorable success, yet I think this film ticks all the right boxes and will be remembered for all the right reasons when other current greats have been long forgotten.
  • The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus Directed by Terry Gilliam Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer and Tom Waits

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