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  • It would have been hard not to like this movie, since I had early previews from friends that it is boring and pointless, so my expectations were really down. I did watch it, nonetheless, and I am glad I did. If you ever watched Tideland, you know Terry Gilliam is capable of works of terrible beauty, often concocted from the ugliest bits life can provide; such is this film.

    This is Heath Ledger's last film, he died during filming it, but his character is not the main one, just the extra ingredient needed to take all the important ones out of their equilibrium state. Because of this tragedic death, other actors came to fill up the role, such as Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.

    And still, the important character, the Faust that can't keep himself from betting with a mischievous devil that isn't even very unfriendly, is Christopher Plummer's, who played marvelously at his age of 81. I loved the way the devil was toying with him, addicted to playing games that he didn't want to win in the end so that he keeps playing. The visuals were great, the atmosphere both miraculous and brooding, but rarely in the same time. And Lily Cole was cute and sexy as hell.

    Bottom line: a weird film that you need to think about to get at his many hidden meanings, with beautiful imaginative imagery and great actors. What is not to like?
  • Like so many of Terry Gilliam's films The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is one that is going to need multiple viewings to truly form an opinion on. Like Brazil, Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, Fisher King, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas and Tideland (even Time Bandits really) there is so much going on here that expectations or reputations get in the way and make it hard to digest and appreciate on a single viewing. No bad thing necessarily.

    Of course Parnassus has the particularly insurmountable problem of being the late Heath Ledger's final performance and following on from his superb, Oscar-winning turn in The Dark Knight. It is impossible to see the film through eyes that don't see it as the film he died making. Some parts of the film may perhaps work even better than they may of done had he lived – some of the best films are triumphs over adversity and adverse conditions don't come much greater than your star dying mid-shoot. But whatever works and doesn't in the film it is hard – impossible on a first viewing – to divorce yourself from the knowledge you bring into the theatre.

    On first feeling Parnassus seems patchy, and curiously it feels like a film that may not have worked as well as it does had nothing happened to Ledger. Don't get me wrong I'd rather have a Gilliam failure and Ledger still alive to put it behind him and move on than a wonderful film that is largely the result of his tragic death. But we don't have that so I'm just looking at what's there.

    The fact is the film is at it's best when galloping around the fantastical worlds of the Imaginarium, with Ledger's character Tony now played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. Depp and Farrell are particularly good and imbue the film with an energy lacking in much of it.

    The casting generally is good. Christopher Plummer is steadfast excellence as always. Lily Cole is a surprisingly strong choice. I've never understood the viewpoint of Cole as "sooooooo beautiful" that the gossip sheets and magazines espouse but she has a quirky intrigue that works wonders in a Gilliam world and proves herself as an actress amongst a proved group of impressive performers. Hers is probably the best debut performance I can recall of a model or singer turning to acting. She puts a lot of professional actresses (no Keiras named!) to shame.

    Andrew Garfield is that intriguing mix of annoying and brilliant. Like DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? I started out thinking he was terrible and then grew to realise it was just that I hated him, his character. He annoyed the hell out of me. In another words he had inhabited the character so fully, so convincingly that my negative feelings toward him where directed at the fictional character. A superb performance.

    Tom Waits steals moments constantly. Waits hasn't been given such a juicy role that fit him better since Renfield in Coppola's Dracula and he revels as Dr Nick (the devil) here.

    Oddly the performance that, again I specify on first viewing, leaves you a bit underwhelmed is Ledgers. It is not a bad performance but the expectations as you go in, knowing it was his last performance, means you expect something special. Brokeback Mountain/Dark Knight special. But of course not every role is as powerful as his in Brokeback or as scene-stealing as the Joker. I mean he didn't know it was his last performance for crying out loud. Therefore it cannot possibly live up to expectations and is destined to underwhelm until multiple viewings and some distance allow it to be judged fairly. That there was such a fully formed character there that three other actors could step in to play alternate universe versions of it entirely convincingly is arguably a testament to how strong a performance Ledger did give. It is not a likable character or a flashy character (it doesn't even really seem the main character until the alternate worlds with the alternate Tonys come in) and so Ledger's understated subtleties are easy to miss.

    When you watch Fisher King the first time you remember Robin Williams, not Jeff Bridges. In Twelve Monkeys it's Brad Pitt that comes away with you not Bruce Willis. And yet on further viewings Bridges' performance seems superb, Willis' perhaps the best of his career. I suspect on repeated viewings I'm going to see the strength of Ledger's performance better. I hope so.

    And of course this is a problem much of the film has. Gilliam doesn't make simple, overly explained films for the masses – thank Gilliam – you have to work with them. The problem here is that with your mind distracted with thoughts of Ledger and expectations built on that promise of Gilliam at his creative best, three step-in performances and Ledger's final performance it's hard to get your mind around the story and enjoy it as a piece of work.

    Sometimes Gilliam films work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they get better and better on repeat viewings (Brazil); sometimes they work instantly (Twelve Monkeys); sometimes they seem to work but the more you see them or think about them they crumble and ultimately don't (Brothers Grimm). Sometimes they just seem to be a mix of great ideas, wonderful performances and ingenious set pieces but hampered by an overabundance of theatricality and almost too much going on for its own good (Baron Munchausen). On a first viewing Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus feels like this latter. Bits work, bits don't. It's enjoyable in places but perplexing ultimately.

    I will definitely revisit it though to see if changes on repeat viewings. I feel sure it will, but whether that's a good or bad thing, well, I'll have to wait and see.
  • The main talking point surrounding The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the fact that it is the last appearance of the late Heath Ledger, however, there is a lot more to talk about with this film. Ledger's performance is good, as one would expect, but he has done better and more iconic roles. The problem faced by his death occurring before filming completed is overcome easily and one would not necessarily know that Ledger had died just from the evidence of the film. There is a fitting tribute to him in the film, as Johnny Depp's version of Heath Ledger's character comments on how celebrities who died young will live on forever.

    However, this film deserves to be discussed as a piece of work on its own. Like many of Terry Gilliam's films it is both complex and imaginative. The titular Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) operates a mostly unsuccessful travelling show where he hopes to send members of the public through a magic mirror into the Imaginarium where they will ultimately face a choice between giving their soul to Parnassus or the Devil (Tom Waits). Those two are having a contest for the soul of Valentina (Lily Cole), the Doctor's daughter. Helping the Doctor's show are the lovelorn Anton, the dwarf Percy and Tony a mysterious stranger who can draw punters.

    Initially all these plot points work well. Doctor Parnassus is a desperate man who has almost given up hope, whilst the Devil is entertaining to watch, yet evidently devious. The heart of the film lies with Valentina who wants a normal life but is it unaware that it is far more complicated than just the raising of money. Unfortunately, the film runs into difficulty in the last third as the plot lines all come together and even more are added, creating a overly complex ending where nothing gets resolved properly.

    The acting is good, with Lily Cole surprisingly impressive and old hands Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits leading by example. Terry Gilliam direction combines the fantastical and the ordinary in a way that only he can. It is the first time he has participated in the writing process for two decades and this film has an autobiographical feel as Doctor Parnassus tries to entice with stories and the imagination only to be met by cynical crowds. This effort to wow the public may not move them away from CGI and is short of his best, but it is still entertaining and favourable over films which lack charm, imagination and storytelling.
  • The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a very strange film but it pulls together wonderfully. It was dark but funny at the same time. I really loved the imaginarium sequences. Gilliam uses dream-like imagery and odd behavior to construct a fantastic escape into imagination. Although the CGI was admittedly simplistic, it was fitting for the fantasy realm. Great performances, especially by Heath Ledger and Colin Farrell.

    I don't think this movie is for everyone since it has received mixed reactions. I also would advise against having certain expectations going into it, because there's no way to anticipate what you will get out of the film. But for me, it was certainly a real treat and very enjoyable throughout.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this film on the way home after a trip to Sydney. I was run-down, slightly feverish and head-achy, but none of that interfered with my enjoyment of the film.

    I'd actually forgotten that the film'd been released but when I saw the choices available it was the logical choice. I missed 1 minute of the opening credits but for once that wasn't a crucial thing. This being a Terry Gilliam film, you know it's going to be a) fantastic in a classic sense, b) complicated with many red herrings and original characters, and c) something you can watch more than once.

    I was not disappointed. It took a while before I followed what was happening and that's part of the charm of this film. The story (really a parable or allegory) is built up in layers and seemed to me perfectly cast (even allowing for Ledger's "ring-ins" after his untimely death). I particularly like the play between Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and Mr Nick (Tom Waits). I found it interesting to see the visual influences in this film as well. The fantasy segments all have the mark of the director's animation days with Monty Python. There's also a Harry Potter influence in that Parnassus's wagon/theater looks like something from one of those films, and Parnassus himself reminded me strongly of a drunk Dumbledore.

    But this is NOT a film for everyone. The ending is NOT a Hollywood style "happy ending" by any means, but one that reflects on the nature of life. Anyone expecting this film to be a bit of "holiday entertainment" will be sorely disappointed, as the plot is not as predictable and the clichés used in the film aren't the sort you usually see.

    A top film that makes one think.
  • HEATH LEDGER's sudden demise during filming of THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS made it necessary to change the script so that his unfinished scenes could be played by other actors within the realm of the crazy world of the Imaginarium. This clever adjustment to the script provides three other actors with fill-in roles for Ledger: JOHNNY DEPP, JUDE LAW and COLIN FARRELL.

    Heath is a complete delight in his role as the mysterious stranger who comes upon the traveling sideshow and has the power to change everything. CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER is a marvel in the title role as the 1,000 year-old man who has sold his soul to the Devil and must turn over his daughter to Mr. Nick (TOM WAITS) on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday. Newcomers ANDREW GARFIELD and LILY COLE are well cast as performers in the troupe.

    All of it is filled with wondrous sets, gorgeous costumes, and an abundant sense of good humor. Everyone in the cast seems to be having fun with their roles, particularly Heath Ledger. I dare say that if he had lived to complete his role, it may well have garnered another nomination for him.

    Terry Gilliam has directed with a firm grasp of tongue-in-cheek fantasy and made a vastly entertaining film out of a slim story idea. Whether it appeals to you or not will depend entirely on your taste. It's certainly not a film for everyone but it is bizarre and fascinating.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus tells the story of the immortal Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his magical Imaginarium, a travelling show in which a volunteer from the audience gets to experience their greatest need in vivid forms and then has to choose between two paths. Choose correctly and you will be enlightened, choose wrongly and things won't be so good for you. Dr Parnassus however has a very dark secret; he once made a bet with Mr Nick the Devil (Tom Waits), in which he won immortality. Centuries later, he decided to trade his immortality with youth when he met his one true love, on the condition that his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) belongs to Mr Nick when she reaches 16. The daughter is now reaching that consenting age, and Mr Nick comes to collect but Dr Parnassus is not about to let go. However, being the devil that he is, Mr Nick renewed the wager: Whoever entices the first 5 souls wins Valentina.

    Enter Tony (the late Heath Ledger), a mysterious man found hanging under a bridge by the Imaginarium crews and was revived by Anton (Andrew Garfield) to join the show and eventually make it successful. However, there's something about Tony that makes Parnassus' loyal friend Percy (Verne Troyer) uneasy. Tony's shady backgrounds and friendship with Valetina also make the jealous Percy more anxious. Dr Parnassus on the other hand is happy with Tony and he promises his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever that helps him win the bet. A race against time and choices of morality ensues in the wonderland that is the Imaginarium.

    Terry Gilliam directed this painting of a movie wonderfully with timing and pace coherently controlled. He gives us not just a great story but a whole world so outstandingly created with visual effect and cinematography that might leave you wondering where you are at the end of the movie and where you were during it. The Imaginarium, with its doorway made of simple foil sheets, is filled with random worlds produced by people's mind which is so vivid and mysterious and weird. This whole film is weird. But in a good way.

    What most might notice is the fact that the script and dialogues flow and form so smoothly and realistically that it is like watching real people in real situation. Heath Ledger did improvise some of his line and that fact alone proves how great of an actor he is. Although you might find his acting a bit similar to last year's most famous villain, The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) which, of course, he himself played. His acting is believable, since he is an Australian playing British. Then there are Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, each playing the different version of Tony when he enters the Imaginarium. The three actors played that one role so well that they disappeared into Heath Ledger's character so effectively that you are seeing a man whose face had changed and not a change in the person himself.

    But of course, this is not a story about Tony but Dr Parnassus (as in the title). Christopher Plummer did well playing a failing, sometimes drunken, side-show immortal and he provided enough mystical quality for the character. There are also several flashback scenes of a younger Parnassus also played by him. Tom Waits, played the Devil brilliantly with his growly voice and dark demeanour. Lily Cole proved that she can show real raw emotion in some scenes. Verne Troyer plays a lovable Percy, equipped with fast witty comments and wise words. And Andrew Garfield plays the distress young man, Anton.

    The score is great. Nothing ground-breaking but the music disappears and becomes a part of the scene. A great touch is when whenever Mr Nick appears, the score changes to something jazzy or bluesy.

    The storyline itself is something to be loved and the twist and turns of the plot is something to be admired. It's one thing people might not expect from a CGI-laden movie. But the story will grip you and make you captivated that you will sit through the 120 minutes just to see how it ends. The writers Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown deserve an applause for handling such complicated story so well.

    It is basically a story about a father protecting his daughter. But what makes it unique is the fact that is it layered with metaphors and references about religion, the battle between good and evil, choices people made, impression people put up and morality behind each of our action.

    Not many people will like this movie simply because of its strange nature. The storyline itself is quiet confusing and its combination with the weird graphic of the Imaginarium world does not help at all. Some parts need a second viewing which I'm sure will be a rewarding watch. But if you understand it, I expect you will love The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Trying to come up with some kind of rating for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is quite a challenge indeed. On one hand, the plot goes absolutely nowhere, the ending is nearly incoherent and the point seems lost in an overly symbolical climax. On the other hand, the movie is absolutely beautiful, some characters are beyond excellent and the ideas behind it are tremendously original. And I'm an absolute sucker for originality.

    Imaginarium makes no bones about being completely out-of-this-world from the outset, following a troupe of actors and mystics. The leader, Dr. Parnassus, is mostly silent on stage, rumoured to be an immortal who has lived 1000 years. Also following are Parnassus' 15-year-old daughter Valentina, youthful romantic Anton (who is, of course, head-over-heels for Valentina) and wisecracking yet wise midget Percy. They soon run across a mysterious amnesiac stranger, who has new ideas for the show.

    Parnassus accepts, because he's made a deal with the devil (given the name Mr. Nick) and needs to collect five souls before the devil does, which he accomplishes by having people enter his Imaginarium, a world inside his/their mind (its difficult to tell just whose mind it is). And so the race is on, and Valentina's life is at stake.

    The exact "rules" of this soul-collecting business is never explicitly stated. Some parts near the end involving this simply make little to no sense. In fact, the entire ending is full of mumbo jumbo that probably demands a second viewing. Even with this oddity, the ending is nonetheless exciting.

    The middle, however, does drag somewhat. Despite what one might think, the Imaginarium scenes appear in the beginning, then cut out for nearly an hour. The movie doesn't have much steam in the real world, although Ledger's enthusiac salesman performance does give these bits some life to them, as well as any interactions with Percy.

    It does, of course, have a very standard love triangle, with Anton and the stranger vying over Valentina's affections. Thankfully, neither suitor is displayed as particularly perfect, but it does feel somewhat by-the-book otherwise. Anton is the sweet, age-appropriate suitor, with a gleam in his eye and jealously in his heart. The stranger (eventually revealed to be named Tony, but I much prefer the early moniker George) is much cooler and more assertive, but there's mysteries in his past. How it all ends up is slightly surprising, but its mostly the same as always for the romantic side of things.

    As for the actual imaginarium scenes, if Avatar is a testament to the raw power of CGI, this film is a testament to their artistic value. Likely entirely green-screened, these sequences are quite dazzling, with rivers turning into snakes and sinister Russian mothers. Its like Alice in Wonderland went slightly more over-the-edge, and some while some bits are truly bizarre, its all quite fascinating, especially when it is first re-introduced after the middle.

    One of the big buzzes of Parnassus is Ledger's performance, being his last before his untimely death. While he has extraordinary bits as the salesman of the show, the meatier bits in the imaginarium, unfortunately, were not filmed before he passed. In an act of true genius, Gilliam used three other actors to fill in (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrel), with the explanation being that his appearance changes. Which would have made sense had the other characters had their appearance change as well, although one other exception does occur, giving it somewhat more validity. All three actors pull their weight wonderfully to help the film. Jude Law, in my opinion, was the best of the three, although Farrel was also great with likely the most screen time and dramatic impact. Depp was certainly entertaining, but seemed too much like Johnny Depp, clashing a bit with Ledger's characteristics on the outside. Unfortunately, Ledger's character is last seen as one of these forms, leaving the characters sendoff disconnected.

    The supporting cast has some big standouts. Plummer is appropriately wise, but does little more than expected. Lily Cole is a beautiful subject for the role, and perfectly exudes youthful naivete, although the character's age sometimes makes her actions squeamish. Verne Troyer (yeah, that Verne Troyer) is exceptional as the comic relief Percy. The true standout is Tom Waits as Mr. Nick, the trickster devil. A stlish mix of clever and evil, Mr. Nick is one of the best villains of the year, and an excellently entertaining performance.

    Imaginarium simply must be seen twice to get a proper opinion of the movie. If originality and style is more important than pure dramatic substance for you, then I would recommend this movie, as few like it exist. If you want more substance, look elsewhere.
  • This is Terry Gilliam's dark masterpiece. It's a brilliant film--there are fabulous, fantastic, surrealistic visual effects; gorgeous cinematography; and stunning performances by an amazing cast of consisting of both famous stars and lesser known (but excellent) actors. It's in the vein of the great European surrealistic movies like Fellini's "8 1/2" or "Satyricon". But--if you're not open to a mind bending, almost psychedelic fantasy and a plot with strange twists and turns that can be challenging to follow, this won't be for you. The cast is terrific--I mean, Tom Waits plays "Old Scratch"--how can you lose? Christopher Plummer is excellent in the title role; Heath Ledger's last performance is stellar. Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Andrew Garfield, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, and Colin Farrell are also very good. The costumes and sets are gorgeous, though often in a dark and grungy way. By the way--it also ends up being a story about ethical choices in life and how some people are very misleading. Probably not material for a box office hit, sadly, as this film is probably too unusual for most Americans.
  • It is impossible to write about this entry into Terry Gilliam's oeuvre without acknowledging the tragic death of Heath Ledger. Cast as the film's inciting character, Heath Ledger's untimely death spawned and air of sadness that blankets the film, especially considering the tragic nature of his character.

    Of course, as they say, the show must go on, so "The Imaginarium" did as well. in an outpouring of cinematic industry kinship, Johnny Depp ("Fear and Loathing"), Colin Farrell ("In Bruges"), Jude Law ("A.I.") stepped in to play Heath Ledger's character, Tony's, alter ego when he is in the mirror world. What this film would have looked like had Ledger not departed can never be known. How much film had to be scrapped, how many scenes were restructured, what funding fell through as a result, I do not know.

    For these reasons, the film, in all of its imperfection, seems to get a pass from me, as I find myself wondering how a film production would recover from such a blow. The only even somewhat similar circumstances I can think of off the top of my head is Brandon Lee's death during the filming of "The Crow," and the massive reshoot efforts undertaken to remove Kevin Spacey from the film "All the Money in the World," coincidentally played by Christopher Plummer ("The New World") who co starred with Ledger ("A Knight's Tale") in "Imaginarium."

    So those are my caveats for a film plagued by problems. I watch this film with a wave of sad forgiveness and dream of its original intentions.
  • Suffering the double whammy of being directed by Terry Gilliam (forever the attracter of on-set misfortune – Don Quixote, anyone?) and the untimely death of its star, Heath Ledger, halfway through shooting, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has had a troubled upbringing. But with the actor's tragic passing, its unremarkable place on 2009's cinema calendar was upped by being Ledger's second posthumous and final movie, unfairly burdening the film with the anticipation of it being something great.

    It's not great. But it is a good movie, and probably Gilliam's best in over a decade. Also, bittersweet though it may be, Ledger's inability to complete his work is remedied in an incredibly inventive manner that arguably improves what would have been; the multiple facets of Ledger's mysterious Tony in the Imaginarium is a great inflection, and Gilliam deserves credit for this creative retooling, and for the fact that the haste in which it was applied is not at all noticeable. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell (who all donated their wages to his daughter, Matilda) honorably step in to play the alternates, paying poignant tribute to their friend. All are good (though Farrell's Irish accent is far too thick to flatten), Depp probably being the best, but its all mimicry; Ledger is the one who does all the work. His Tony, performed with a flawless English accent, is a great part for him, possessing all the characteristics of vintage Ledger – charismatic, droll, physically erratic, etc. It's not on par with his work in Brokeback Mountain or The Dark Knight, but seeing how much fun he must have been having, seeing that wily smile, makes it a none the more fitting goodbye to the man.

    The multi-personas also, despite sounding like classically contrived Gilliam, actually turn out to be the most credible part of the movie; they represent the most fascinating of the film's many mediations on reality (Gilliam is always at best when toying with reality, and this is no exception) - different parallels of the human psyche (or at least Tony's) are all challenged, and make for genuinely thought-provoking stuff. The rest of the film, however, is a bit of a patchwork; provocative but hopelessly overwrought. As always with the Brazil director, you can't fault his ambition, but he's always been patently unable to neatly combine all of his ideas into a satisfying whole.

    His biggest mistake is going contemporary. Gilliam's sense of humor, being that of a Python affiliate's, has always been well-authenticated by a theatrical and undeniably British zaniness. But here, we get modern social satire in the form of Tony's revamped version of the group's travelling act, and we get conversational verbosity (particularly in the poor improvisation of a pointless Verne Troyer), and it simply doesn't suit. Better are the moments where a group of "violence-loving" coppers dance about in skirts or in the inebriated ramblings of Doctor Parnassus.

    Why Gilliam didn't stick to his personal brand of appealing outlandishness is a shame, and a mystery, considering his fine cast of comically-endowed Brits, with glorious thespian Christopher Plummer at its head as the titular Doc. Of all the actors on hand here, Plummer is the one who best excels with the material. Playing a man who has lived over one-thousand years, he manages to convincingly carry himself with the weight of that time, his sallow-skinned and ravaged face, heavy, sad eyes, and world-weary frown scarily naturalistic. He's a heart-breaking character, and Plummer makes him an uncompromising presence.

    Also impressive are newcomers Andrew Garfield and Lily Cole, and Tom Waits as Mr Nick, the Devil himself. The notorious singer has never really had any good roles to work with in his career, and, in all fairness, his talents as an actor dictates just as much, but he's simply perfect here, his Machiavelli stealing all the scenes he wonderfully chews with his smarminess. It's not exactly a creation of noteworthy prowess (and neither is the character – the cavalier, smooth-talking, gentleman-like villain, who relishes fomenting, is very overdone), but he's just such a hoot and effortlessly magnetic. He's pretty much the best thing here, and worth the admission price.

    Along with the cast, the visuals, a branch you can expect brilliance in with Gilliam, are a real saving grace. The special effects in the Imaginarium aren't extraordinary, but that's the point; it's an accentuated, animated reality – one's greatest dreams (and nightmares) aren't supposed to be realistic. And few images this year are more stirring than of a harrowed Parnassus wandering through a vast snow-plain, giving up his struggle at a crossroad sign that reads "High Road" or "Low Road".

    It's a very entertaining movie, and thematically sound (it manages to make existentialism and solipsism accessible), and endearingly whimsical in tone and style. Unfortunately, it frequently degenerates into a muddle, the many ideas it juggles far too incoherently transcended. Thankfully, however, after the monotonous middle act, the movie picks up steam and the great Imaginarium sequences arrive to compel. And, in the end, it's a sheer miracle that the movie got made; the fact that Gilliam didn't give up, that he persevered and single-handedly defeated one of the worst production catastrophes, and that he gave Ledger his swansong, is something truly amazing. And it is for that reason that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will be remembered.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival!

    Apparently, Gilliam was not "on" anything while conceiving this masterful work of abstract reality. And i, for one, believe this statement is genuine. This is because through the visual chaos presented on the screen lies a single idea that weaves the entire picture together. Yes, there are flaws in the story but life has flaws and that is why artists like Mr. Gilliam create the means to escape from that daily monotony.

    The cast had perhaps more heavyweight star-power than any contemporary Hollywood blockbuster could ever dream of (Ledger, Plummer, Depp, Law, and Ferrel. Each of them bringing their talents to the table even as Tom Waits steals the show popping up unexpectedly every now and then in the most unusual fashion. Heath is a true chameleon; this time, sporting an English accent. But it is Christopher Plummer who is the true lead as it is he who we follow on the mission to save his daughter from the grasp of Waits' devil that underlines the entire film.

    While watching, one ultimately forgets that it is the last time that Heath will ever grace the big screen and yet it seems as though he goes out with the same grace many thought had already passed with The Dark Knight. It is also particularly strange how the last shot of the Joker in The Dark Knight is hanging upside-down (sorry for spoiler) and the first shot of Tony in this film is hanging under a bridge (not really a spoiler). The latter is foretold by Parnassus via a tarot card called "The Hanged Man" which foretells happiness at the price of sacrifice...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I read quite a few reviews of 'The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus' before I finally got around to seeing this amazing film. Most reviewers comment on the basic plot / story line, the Terry Gilliam style of visual effects, the actors' individual performances, etc but what surprised me the most is the sheer spiritual depth of this movie which no one seems to talk about or recognize. I cannot think of any other film that is as multi-layered in this regard. It appears the state of mind / soul of the viewer determines the viewing experience. People who are primarily focused on the physical and little on the spiritual world will miss a lot of what this film is about and therefore will not be able to adequately appreciate it.

    I would actually find it to be quite a challenge to verbally explain certain meanings/messages as in a way they're perceived on a spiritual level first and kind of need to be 'translated' into words - that's a really rare thing in movies these days and something I highly value.

    There is a lot of symbolism in this film. For example, look up the meaning of 'The Hanged Man' tarot card, which appears in the film several times... . I now understand why it was impossible for Terry Gilliam to remove that hanging scene - it is an integral part of the movie...

    Even if you can't understand the deeper meanings of this film, it's still very entertaining due to the wonderful visual effects and strong acting performances. Heath Ledger managed to demonstrate a completely new acting style (his variety of characters in a few brief years is simply astounding), Lily Cole was perfectly chosen for her role and as she has said so herself, her acting benefited greatly from the mentoring she received from Heath during the filming. She did a wonderful job and I think she's got amazing potential. I can't wait to see how she'll develop as an actress in years to come. I also really enjoyed Christopher Plummer. He managed to play a very difficult role that could have easily destroyed the whole film if his acting skills weren't so impeccable.

    Incidentally, when you watch the film, experiment viewing Dr Parnassus as a reflection of one's eternal soul and the other actors as various aspects of life rather than specific characters and the film takes on a whole new meaning...

    I thought the casting in general is superb and one can't help but walk away from this film feeling enriched. I watched it with my 13-year old son who was completely mesmerized from start to finish...

    I'm so glad and grateful Terry Gilliam completed this profound film because I personally consider it a much more suitable last performance of Heath Ledger than what the Joker would have been. I feel Heath has left us with a deeply meaningful message - a precious gift to be cherished.

    Make sure you go and see this movie. Try to not intellectualize it but instead keep your mind open and 'let everything come to you.'
  • Just before leaving to go and see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, the latest offering from the perpetually 'unlucky' yet stubbornly visionary Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Time Bandits), I asked a good friend, also a movie buff, if he wanted to come with.

    "No way," he proclaimed. "I can't sit through a Terry Gilliam movie." Having sat through the 2 hour + film myself, I'm convinced he made the right decision, as I even had a tough time with it. It's definitely too long, rarely makes sense and feels as though it might unravel at any minute. As usual, Gilliam's imagination takes over the film, running completely wild in every direction, resulting in a rich visual feast that's a delight to look at. As usual, though, this comes at the expense of clarity and accessibility, which is unfortunate, especially so considering the multiple real-world challenges that severely disrupted the film's production and its theoretical comprehensibility anyway. Is Gilliam ever gonna catch a break? And, if he does, will he be relaxed enough to create something that more that a handful of folks might like? This film's script (mostly unchanged, despite production difficulties) will definitely try one's patience; characters make weird choices and important plot elements are left unexplained. As a decision seemingly made to serve the story, most of Gilliam's film operates on a kind of dream logic, which at the best of times put a huge grin on my face and made me feel all gooey inside and at the worst of times pulled me right out of the film, faster than a spilled cold Coke in the lap. As an example of the latter, one would think that Gilliam, having famously made the creative decision to bolster the late Heath Ledger's incomplete performance with the work of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law, might have installed some sort of interesting yet logical plot device allowing that singular character to appear physically different at times. Sadly, the reasoning is, for some reason, half-baked - the other characters in the film are just as puzzled as the audience is at the changes, even going way too far with their "No, wait... who are you?" line of questions. If one's own characters seem to think it's out of place, then the audience will have no choice but to question it as well. Disbelief: unsuspended and resolute in its anchor-like stolidity (how's that for a sentence?).

    Now, despite all that, I absolutely, positively and without question adored The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Because Gilliam is really, really good at what he does best. It's far and away one of my favourite films of the year, and easily the most important film of Gilliam's career, warts and all. With Parnassus, he continues to stylistically explore potent ideas about the power of storytelling and imagination, and what happens when the worlds of fables and make-believe collide with our cynical, sober reality - all concepts I personally go nuts over. When in this mode, he always managed to sub-textually raise questions about imagination and dreams as important sign-posts in our collective unconscious, lighting the way to collective and individual hope, joy and happiness. The difference with Parnassus is that Gilliam has finally made a film that is explicitly and without question about that exact thing, positing at its core that stories and imagination and new ideas are the very things that hold the fabric of the universe together. A beautiful idea, and as relevant as ever considering Hollywood's constant push for the bottom line over creative integrity, and Gilliam's own personal feelings regarding his stifled creativity and the uncertainty of his place in modern cinema. And if you're anything like me (Naive? Simple?), this stuff, when fused with Gilliam's impeccable eye for composition and always fantastic production design will help you forget that the film isn't perfect or logical or accessible.

    Despite all of the aforementioned flaws in the story (which, understandably, most movie-goers may have a low tolerance for), The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is actually quite brilliant, and contains some of the single best movie moments and ideas seen all year, and by dint of its stellar cast (besides Heath Ledger and friends, the film stars Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, both in memorable roles), serves as a showcase for some of the best talent working in film at the time of production. But because of its flaws, it probably won't generate the word of mouth necessary to bring the crowds (and as such, the box office receipts) that Gilliam so desperately needs in order to continue to be able to make films of this scale. Which is too bad, as directors like Gilliam, who so zealously worship at the alter of imagination and visual splendour with a slavish dedication to film-making craft are not so high in abundance. Maybe if he was actually able to, you know, make a film without having outside elements messing up his plans, he might actually live up to his ultimate potential as an original story-teller able to easily reach the masses. As it stands, though, his status as such, as well as the very fabric of the universe it seems, continue to be under threat.

    My score? 7/10.
  • Well today I've seen Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; I would say it's great! Terry Gilliam made another masterful work in his traditional vein of early works. Undoubtedly it could be better, but considering complicated circumstances under which were whole creation of the movie this is not just concocted story, it's elaborately tailored picture with heart and deep sense.

    Looks a little bit patchy at first view, I suppose it's related with the death of Heath Ledger who didn't end his performance nevertheless Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell imbue the movie with new shapes and different atmosphere. They not worse they just different, somebody may deny such substitution but they need to think at first. What choice Gilliam had? These tree actors are probably the best that cinema industry has for this role. Without them, this film won't even exist.

    This film is not for everyone, there are lacks of hints to get accurate picture and you'll need to face a lot of puzzles within it. But obviously when you begin to peer into the deepest niceties you start to understand all charming aspects and the main idea. This entire story filled with dozens of perplexing moments due to the abstract reality mood yet it's all looks really stunning and amazing especially perfectly contrived mysterious clouds around Heath Ledger's character Tony. His enigmatic origin has specific magnetism, it takes spectator's mind and don't give him any chance to digress from twists and turns of the plot and constantly keeps him on tenterhooks. No doubt this work deserves the highest mark, Gilliam made a great job and I believe his efforts and efforts of all who were involved in the creation of this masterpiece won't escape from clever viewers.

    Pity that it is the last movie of Heath Ledger, because in fact it's not a film about his character, it is basically about Doctor Parnassus. But still I'm happy that last film of Ledger was so terrific and magnificent. Ledger left us beautifully like such outstanding actors should. Rest in peace Heath we all know that you were the best. And you still the best, cos like Johny Depp sad in the movie ''Nothing is permanent, not even death''.
  • In London, the sideshow troupe of Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) promises to the audiences a journey to the "Imaginarium", an imaginary world commanded by the mind of Doctor Parnassus where dreams come true. In the stories that Doctor Parnassus tells to his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), to the midget Percy (Verne Troyer), and his assistant Anton (Andrew Garfield), he claims to have more than one thousand years; however, when he felt in love for a mortal, he made a deal with the devil Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) trading his immortality per youth. As part of the bargain, he promised his son or daughter to Mr. Nick on the sixteenth birthday. Valentina now is almost in the doomed age and Doctor Parnassus bets with Mr. Nick that whoever seduces five souls in the Imaginarium will have Valentina as a prize. Meanwhile the troupe rescues Tony (Heath Ledger) that was hanged on a bridge by the Russians that explains why he had been chased and he joins the group. Tony and Valentina fall in love for each other and the jealous Anton discovers that his competitor is a liar.

    "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is another original movie with the surrealistic and imaginary world of Terry Gilliam and last work of Heath Ledger that had to be replaced by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell in the "Imaginarium" to complete the missing scenes. Further, the trio of actors has donated their income with this film to Heath Ledger's daughter to guarantee her financial situation in the future in magnanimous attitudes. The duel between Doctor Parnassus and Mr. Nick together with the vision of the world of fantasy of Terry Gilliam is awesome. For those that liked this movie, I would like to recommend the also surrealistic "O Homem Que Desafiou o Diabo". My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "O Imaginário Mundo do Doutor Parnassus" ("The Imaginary World of Doctor Parnassus")
  • Many reviewers wrote they could not sit through the film. Sadly, in today's "I must constantly be entertained with my 1.5 second attention span", moviegoers tend to actually stomach "Gone In Sixty Seconds" yet cannot follow an intelligent, thoughtful film, replete with the fantastic imagination of Terry Gilliam. I had little trouble not only following this film, but following the changes of characters caused by Heath Ledger's death. Actually, the best of the characters was Johnny Depp, as usual. Everyone else who played the part, including Ledger, seemed to be walking through the lines. Overall, I loved the film. It definitely should have won best set decoration, and Christopher Plummer should have been a candidate for best actor. But as I said, short attention spans and focus on mindless drivel like the constant barrage of car theft shows indicates a somewhat less sophisticated audience that may not appreciate an intelligent film.
  • LaSaggezza29 September 2019
    What a blast! What a cast! Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Andrew Garfield, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, Colin Farrell and Tom Waits. I don't quite know how to describe this other than to say it's masterfully-produced-21st-century-Monty Python-surreal-bizarre-trippy-digitized-cinema with an absolutely colorfully-entertaining and imaginative storyline. How in the name of Ni did I miss this up until now!? Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is sophisticated, thoughtful, entertaining, totally brilliant and light years distant from the original simplistic Circus humor.

    If you are becoming board with superheros, apocalypse survival, Star Wars, Star Treks,and 2.0 versions of movies made 40 years ago then clear the fuzz out of your head and buy a ticket for the Parnassus Road Show. You won't be disappointed!
  • Dainius888830 July 2011
    An experience. That is the best description I can think of every time I see a movie by Terry Gilliam. He truly is a visionary, who's work is like non other. It's as if there are no rules in his line of work. Beautiful, imaginative, sick...It actually is quite hard to describe his work logically, because everything about his work is not based on logic. It is as if his imagination bursts out of his mind beyond the comprehension every time he does a movie, yet everyone of them, in my opinion, is genius. And "The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus" is a perfect example of what Gilliam is capable of.

    The story is quite original and imaginative. Of course it definitely is not for everyone, since this movie REALLY stands out. But as for me, I loved everything about it. Everyone who loves stories about bargains with the devil will surely at least like it, because not only does it use this old fashioned element, but here it dressed up really well. It ads a sort of a humor to it, as the all the characters, especially the devil, are presented here with a nicely exaggerated charisma. And the story's drama put together with this interesting sense of humor creates an absolutely fantastic and aberrant overall atmosphere, which will make you enjoy practically every minute of the picture with tranquil satisfaction. The cast is just amazing beyond praise. So many A list actors (Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, etc.)put together in one place, make this film even more enjoyable. And the fact that the character Tony was Heath Ledger's final performance, really makes you pay a lot of attention to his role, which is absolutely FLAWLESS! And the rest of the cast give the most decent performance, especially Christopher Plummer, whose acting here is impossible to complain about for any movie admirer. The visual effects are incredible. Probably even imaginative enough to match the imagination of Mr. Gilliam. At moments of watching some of the more visually superior scenes, I actually thought to myself "How high, and 'on' what Gilliam was, to be capable of creating such pictures?" But of course this director isn't 'on' anything, but a true master in the craft of filmmaking.

    Definitely recommended. This movie is a must see for any Terry Gilliam fan, any Heath Ledger fan, and anyone who likes imaginative and bizarre stories.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    After having walked out half way through Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit and watch the film from start to finish with lowered, or at least more realistic expectations.

    This is the story of Dr Parnassus who is constantly in game of give and take with the devil. Its a battle for souls that kind of mirrors the battle for God and the Devil. Parnassus travels around putting on shows overing enlightenment to anyone who'll take it, but it rarely amounts to very much. As the film opens time is running short, Parnassus' daughter is to turn 16 which means that she'll be handed over to the devil however into the mix comes the amnesiac Tony, who they find hanging from a rope under a bridge in London. As Tony tries to find his past and the Doctor drinks himself into oblivion the Devil has yet another wager up his sleeve.

    A brilliant cast (including the stand ins for Heath Ledger) try to do what they can with a script that kind of rambles all over the place constantly reinventing itself like the never ending wagers that Tom Wait's devil keeps coming up with. I'm certain that this made some sort of sense on the page, or at the very least in Gilliam's mind but what has come out on screen is kind of like an uncontrolled brain explosion. Its like Terry Gilliam was thinking about all of these things and when suddenly they just sort of popped out before they could adequately be put together. I'm told that the film is very close to Gilliam and reflects things important to him, if that is the case, and I suspect it is, I think Gilliam should be told not to share next time. I really had no idea what he was getting at.

    Don't get me wrong it has some great bits. The imagery is, as with all Gilliam films, stunning. Some of what we see in the Imaginarium is amazing. Most of the bits, as bits, are wonderful but as a whole they don't work. There are simply too many plot holes and too often Gilliam stacks the deck in what ever way he wants things to play out or adds things that make little sense even in a nonsensical way (say the signing police number). If you want an example of Gilliam forcing issues think about the scene at the fair early on. Think about how the family, and everyone else ignores them. I mean everyone ignores them to such a large degree that its intentional. Its much too fake.They are behaving like a monstrous movie family not like a real family. Worst of all is the fact Gilliam can't even keep his characters consistent, one need only loom at the Parnassus character to see that. He is so all over the place as to never seem to fully formed. He drunk, he's not. he fights, he gives up. Give him 30 seconds and he'll change.

    I stopped caring about half way into the film.

    When I originally discussed this film with friends I said that I felt nothing and that I was bored, something I had never felt in a Gilliam film. In someway I think that was true and in some way I think I was wrong. I think the boredom and lack of feeling was a reaction to what I feel is the scatter-shot nature of the script. How can I feel anything when there is no way to know what is really going on since the film doesn't seem to have a clear idea either. I know when it was done I was of the opinion that you probably could even argue that the whole story was a story.

    Its a mess.

    No I did not like it. Honestly between this film and Peter Jackson's Lovely Bones I've had to come up with a new movie list, namely major disappointments.
  • This movie was crazy. Don't get me wrong, though. It was crazy in a good way. This movie plays with your imagination. We're transported into different worlds- inside the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I enjoyed seeing the different places. All the color that was in it and etc. It really reminded me of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' with the delicious candy and the beautiful edible rivers- only obviously, this film was a whole lot crazier.

    This movie is about Doctor Parnassus who has to give up his daughter, Valentina, on her 16th birthday to the devil, after losing a bet. But the devil gives Parnassus a chance to stop this by making ANOTHER bet- the first one to get five souls wins and gets to have Valentina.

    The 4 stars that I gave in the rating was for the settings and the tinge of magic and fantasy that the movie gave. The last star is for the cast and crew. I admit that I've never heard of this movie before. But after watching one of Ledger's films, I got curious about his career and saw that this was the last film that he made, so I decided to watch it. It's impressive how they managed to make this movie still work even after the main actor passed away. It made me think about the 'Harry Potter' franchise and how they would handle it if one of their main characters died. The whole cast and crew did a terribly wonderful job even after the very unfortunate tragedy that they experienced. The other 3 Tonys did a wonderful job. Especially Johnny Depp. I also thought that it was wonderful and selfless for Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Ferrel to donate their earnings to Heath's daughter. Once again, kudos to the cast and crew!

    Now for this movie's big failure. After the film, I asked myself, "What just happened?" There were so many things happening. I couldn't understand everything. And judging from the board and other reviews, I'm not the only one. It was just too confusing. I think it was the symbolism that made viewers kind of confused. Up until now, I still have so many questions. But I won't bother researching on them anymore, since most people's answers are, "It's left up to your imagination." I'm a fan of open ending movies, but this one was just crazy.
  • I found this film interesting and visually stunning, but flawed. At least one of the flaws cannot be attributed to faulty writing/production, but several others can be. For example, there is nothing new or original in the story: it is a straightforward retelling of Faust, the man who makes a pact with the devil and discovers that the devil is smarter and has all the time in the universe to prove it. The ideas of a man who asks for immortality but neglects to ask for eternal youth, and of a child born with a curse on her because of a prior wager her father has made with divine powers to further his own interests, are taken straight out of Greek mythology. Still, one could do worse than borrow from Goethe and Greek mythology.

    The movie weaves in and out of mundane reality (the traveling freak show in modern England) and schizophrenic hallucinogenic scenes inside the Imaginarium, which is the carnival attraction into which Dr. P lures potential sacrificial victims in his attempt to outwit the devil. The scenes inside the Imaginarium show what happens when you give an ex-Python unlimited access to digital effects: quite stunning, but having little to do with the story. They show the fantasy of Gilliam running wild on a huge budget, more than effectively advancing the story of Dr. P and his accursed daughter. I ask myself what a 1930s producer/director, Fritz Lang or Tod Browning for example, might have done with this story and these characters, but without the digital effects- -the story might have benefited from leaving the hallucinogenic details more to the imagination of the viewer than brow-beating us with a pixel- barrage of details. The real horror of what Dr. P is doing is masked by the almost Dr. Seussian silliness of the visual effects (dancing policemen??): Dr. P is luring souls to eternal damnation in an attempt to free his daughter from a wager he made centuries ago. Dr. P is, in essence, trading in human souls. Dr. P himself is immortal, but his daughter is not, and time is running out for her; the horror of her situation, and the evil Dr. P is willing to perpetrate to undo the effects of his own damnable wager, could certainly have been ratcheted up by more subtle means than Gilliam employs here.

    The reality scenes sometimes interweave with the fantastical ones in schizophrenic confusion, indicating, so I suppose, Dr. P's own tenuous grasp on reality. The schizophrenic quality of the film is enhanced by the fact that several different actors play the part of one of the main characters, Tony. I ask myself whether any producer/director would have chosen this as his preferred mechanism to unfold this story, and the answer I come up with is, "no". It is a trick which doesn't quite work for this story; though it did work for "I'm Not There" (no one could play Bob Dylan). The film just barely manages to make the trick plausible by implying that the differences in the character's appearance are due to the perspectives of the different people who perceive that character within the Imaginarium. OK, it was made necessary by the death of the actor in the middle of production, otherwise the film would not have gone public; I can see that Gilliam made the best of terribly unfortunate circumstances. But it is still a dubious trick.

    The casting is excellent: Plummer is entirely convincing as the world- weary Faustian character, Miss Cole acquits herself well as the girl clueless as to her own impending doom, and Waits is superb as the devil. If I hadn't seen any other film with Heath Ledger in it, I would not have thought him an especially gifted actor based solely on this performance; maybe if he had completed the film, it would have shown his true abilities.

  • Gilliam's strength, as always, is in having the ability to project the craziest depths of his imagination on to the big screen and this film provides the ideal platform for him to showcase his stunning visual conceptions. The 'Imaginarium' itself is a spectacle of fabulous colours, wonderfully bizarre landscapes and alluring visions; each personal to whoever enters through the magical mirror of Dr. Parnassus' mysterious travelling sideshow.

    On the face of it, this vague idea along with an unparalleled cast sounds like it could be a winning concept for another masterpiece from acclaimed filmmaker Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but I think it lacks the substance to make it a winner. Having said this, credit should be duly given to Gilliam, as the sudden death of Heath Ledger before filming had finished meant that some of the script had to be rewritten and other actors drafted in to complete Ledger's part (Depp, Law and Farrell).

    The plot is hazy and with so much going on throughout it is very difficult to summarise. Dr. Parnassus (Plummer) is accompanied on his travels by his 15 year old daughter, Valentina (played very well, actually, by model-turned-actress Lily Cole). They are joined on the road by two more assistants; the somewhat irritating, yet harmless character of Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Parnassus' "number two", Percy (Troyer). Parnassus possesses the extraordinary power to invite people into their own imaginations through the main attraction that is the Imaginarium, which appears to be a completely ordinary two-sided mirror from the outside. Once inside, however, people are enticed one way and another and eventually, required to choose their fate. Heath Ledger effortlessly plays Tony, an ambiguous, enigmatic character who brings charisma and charm to the failing sideshow. It is very much a supporting role and he turns up towards the second half of the film. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law each bring an interesting dynamic to the character, even though they feature only for short spaces of time within the Imaginarium.

    I would like to watch this film several times more before making my mind up completely as to whether I like it or not; but the main reason that I wouldn't put this amongst Gilliam's best is that it is quite slow-moving in places, where Gilliam seems to have gotten so carried away with his imagination-land that some of the other scenes are lacking focus. It is also difficult to feel any empathy or emotion for the characters, because even with some excellent performances – particularly Plummer as Parnassus himself – there are no distinct personalities to love or hate. In this sense, it is quite possible that this will appeal to cult fans of his niche film-making style. In any case, it is absolutely essential when watching this film that you abandon the desire for a plot in any conventional sense of the word and accept that, in order to appreciate it, your imagination must take over
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Terry Gilliam films are never known for telling a straight story and his productions are no different. Often both are fraught with setbacks, doomed failure and last minute redemption. His 1999 production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was a spectacular disaster. On the second day of shooting, a flood ravaged the set causing $15 million in damages and was compounded days later when his lead actor, Jean Rochefort, sustained a slipped disc which forced the film to shut down. However, a second film crew was documenting the entire proceedings and produced the rather interesting documentary Lost In La Mancha.

    His latest opus, The Imaganarium of Doctor Parnassus was no different. Starring the late Heath Ledger, whose sudden death caused production to grind to a halt having only filmed a third of his parts, it seemed that once again Gilliam's film would be destined for the cutting room floor.

    With developments in technology, Gilliam initially planned to use computer generated effects to change Ledger's appearance akin to those used in The Curious Case of Banjamin Button and finish the film. However, the actors JOhnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were eventually cast to portray alternative versions of Ledger and production resumed several months later.

    The film itself concerns the travelling theatre troupe led by Doctor Parnassus who offers unsuspecting members of the public a chance to enter a magical mirror to unbeknown worlds of an almost hallucinatory nature. These worlds are classic Gilliam animations of a similar theme of those first espoused on Monty Python albeit using modern CGI to create an ethereal reality reflecting the subjects mindset. Those who enter the Imaginarium are manipulated by Dr Parnassus to offer them an experience of a lifetime.

    The twist in Parnassus's ability, however, is that his powers were granted by the Devil for a ransom and now he is back to collect on the bargain, his daughter Valentia. The role of the devil is adeptly played by Tom Waits who plays his character as a reluctant anti-hero, seemingly willing Parnussus on whilst simultaneously mocking his ability to beat him at his own game. Indeed, the Devil can also change the landscape of the vision by those who enter the mirror giving him a somewhat unfair advantage.

    It's true of Gilliam films that the plot is often muddled by the visuals employed to truncate or assist the narrative and certainly there are moments in The Imaginarium where it detracts from the storyline by an overambitious and needless set piece. Nevertheless, the visual effects are stunning at times and add to the grandeur of the moment.

    It is also interesting to see how Gilliam has used the mirrors own powers to change Ledgers character as he enters successive times and how this allows other actors to take his place. It would certainly have been interesting to observe the original idea as subverting the plot to allow Farrell, Law and Depp would have seriously altered the concept of intent as initially conceived.

    Ledger's own performance is satisfactory and it's a shame we do not get to see the change in his own character throughout the entirety of the film but which is adequately filled by the performance of his fellow stars.

    Despite these setbacks and reworkings, the film succeeds in pulling the viewer into the story, despite how ridiculous it becomes at times. As the race reaches its climax for Parnassus to save what is dearest to him, the fragmented storyline pulls more or less neatly together and it is easily Gilliams best film in a decade although not without it's aforementioned detractions.

    This will certainly please fans of his previous work and must have given the studios enough confidence to start production on the ill-fated Don Quixote project which is his next film. Let's hope this is a resurgence in Gilliams ability to match creativity with an ability to deliver a fully formed concept.
  • It is really a shame, that Heath Ledger has left this world. Seeing him in this movie and his performance in the Batman movie (The Dark Knight), you really wish you could see him in more movies. Which of course will not happen. We can even be glad that we have the chance to watch his performance on this movie.

    Heath Ledger had shot most of his scenes already, before he passed away. Terry Gilliam got convinced by the crew and the cast of this film, that he should continue in Memory of Heath L. And so he came up with a few new ideas, how this movie should be. And if you have no idea about Heath Ledger passing away and that whole story, you might even think the movie was planned like that from the get go.

    It's a crazy world, that Terry shows us, which won't answer many questions at the beginning and will leave with a few at the end. An end, that is really great and comes pretty close to the "Brazil" brilliance. The whole movie seems like a comeback. Not that Terry G. was gone, but his Grimm Brothers movie did hurt his reputation.

    After this excruciating experience (it took quite a few years from start to finish), Terry is planning to finally film one of his dream projects. Don Quixote! Johnny Depp will not play the lead (he was cast back when Terry tried and couldn't finish, watch "Lost in La Mancha", a great documentary about the "Un-making" of that movie) and it's not out yet, who will play the lead role. Heath Ledger would have been great ...
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