The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

5.

★★★

Mostly weird, but a little bit wonderful too

Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole and Heath Ledger

While The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has gotten special attention as the film that captured Heath Ledger’s final performance (sadly dying halfway through production), Terry Gilliam’s imaginative feature proves to be more than a sideshow through a great ensemble cast and bold, artistic direction. But with so many ideas and themes worthy of exploring in such a creative world, Doctor Parnassus switches between perspectives, stories and central concepts that it’s hard to follow what the film is trying to communicate.

The last show

Picking up the slack from time to time with wildly visual imaginations of the people who enter the imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Gilliam’s latest film has the same effect of an intensely detailed picture book – capturing an unconventional sense of adventure and excitement that is rare, even within the fantasy genre. With an Alice in Wonderland-esque chase sequence, and an uncanny dance with the devil, it’s hard to take your eyes off this bizarre tale.

Films, however, no matter how visually engaging, need more than elaborate decorations to involve an audience. With fantastic performances given by Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus balances the bizarre with characters that are essentially human with human flaws, strengths and desires. Immersed in the infinite possibilities of imagination in order to explore the power of storytelling, Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus also casts its multiple versions of Tony (Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) with a keen and insightful eye for each actor. Had the film involved more of Gilliam’s knack for comedy, the film would have taken more interesting routes in its storytelling than lulling into flat interactions between the characters that simply serve to connect the dots of the plot.

 

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