The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,
directed by Terry Gilliam
(Sony, 2009)

I'm not entirely sure I followed the story completely. Then again, the mind of Terry Gilliam isn't an easy path to tread.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is notable in part because it was Heath Ledger's final film. It's notable, too, because three iconic actors -- Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell -- stepped in to finish the film by playing Ledger in a face-changing plot twist that allowed Gilliam to finish production after Ledger's untimely death. (It's also notable, for Game of Thrones fans, for being Gwendoline Christie's screen debut in a blink-and-you-missed-it role.)

Christopher Plummer is Doctor Parnassus, an old, possibly mad mystic with an anachronistic traveling road show and a deal with the devil. With him on the road are his sidekick Percy (Verne Troyer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) and his emcee Anton (Andrew Garfield). The devil (Tom Waits) is dogging his heels, ready to collect on their bargain, when Tony (Ledger) stumbles into the mix after he's found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge with arcane symbols painted on his forehead and a pipe lodged in his throat.

The story defies clear description. It's best left to discover on your own, anyway, as too many clues would spoil the film's madcap intent. Suffice it to say, Parnassus and the devil have made several bargains and bets over the centuries since their first encounter, but now a bad deal is coming due, and the price is Valentina's soul. They strike a new wager to see who can seduce five souls first, with Parnassus's mind-bending imaginarium as the playing field.

There are many odd turns and just desserts along the path of redemption -- if redemption is even possible. The performances by the cast are uniformly excellent, and the sets and scenery are stunning.

Like I said at the start, I'm not sure I followed the story all the way, but it was a very pleasant path from start to finish and I don't regret the journey.

review by
Tom Knapp

28 October 2017 ]

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new