The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Nothing is permanent, not even death.
Terry Gilliam’s latest effort, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus received unwanted before it completed production when the main actor, Heath Ledger, tragically died during filming. Gilliam’s ingenuity brought Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law on board to finish the movie. With spectacular visuals inside the imaginarium, this must be the most coherent movie in Gilliam’s filmography.
On a typical night in London, a traveling theater troupe called “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” sets up shop on a random street. Anton (Andrew Garfield) dressed as Mercury introduces the thousand-year-old Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) to a bunch of drunkards stumbling out of a nightclub nearby. One of them rushes the stage and assaults the performers. He tries to make a move on the girl, Valentina (Lily Cole), who is Parnassus’ fifteen-year-old daughter. He steps inside the stage mirror to go to another world. He explores the world is killed inside.
After the latest incident, the performers want to leave, including Parnassus’s longtime sidekick, Percy (Verne Troyer) as a strange man appears, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits). He is the personification of the Devil. He visits Dr. Parnassus to remind of deal that they made centuries before in order for him to gain immorality. When his daughter turns sixteen, her soul will come into the possession of Mr. Nick. Valentina is unaware of this deal until it is almost too late.
When Parnassus tries to retell the story of the pact, he is interrupted when the caravan stops on the bridge, because Anton believed that he saw a dancing shadow. Valentina surmises that it’s a man hanging under them. They realized that it is a man (Ledger) hanging off the bridge with a small golden flute in his throat. When Valentina saves his life, the man doesn’t remember his name, but he has symbols on his forehead. Parnassus thinks that Mr. Nick sent Tony to collect his prize.
The troupe takes in the strange man. Valentina decided to call the new man, “George”. She is drawn to him even though Anton is clearly head-over-heels in love with her. George’s charms as a barker bring in people to view the show.
Mr. Nick visits Parnassus to make another bet that whoever gets five souls in the magical stage mirror in two days with keep Valentina. George’s ruse unravels when picking up a paper, George realizes that he is a missing head of Children’s charity named Tony Shepard.
One night everything goes wrong after Anton overhears the bet between Parnassus and Mr. Nick. He tries to stop the bet, but Tony interferes with it. After the successful fiasco, Anton tells Tony the mystery of the mirror. The next day, Tony suggests to change the show to appeal to a modern audience. They do. A woman goes into the mirror and Tony wants to know what’s inside the mirror so he steps in to the magical world beyond where is transformed into a different person entirely.
I admire Terry Gilliam. Every one of his productions are plagued with problems with flash floods, the studio financing falling through or their main actor dies in the middle of shoot, he finds a way to make it work. Shit storms are falling on him and he continues to dig through it.
Gilliam is not known for his subtle movies. They are more abstract, at best. I had huge problem with the ending of the movie. I thought that a man putting the moves on sixteen-year-old was so wrong. I don’t care if it was in the imaginarium. I did not understand Tony’s motive at the end of the movie. I suppose he wanted to stay in the imaginarium, the perfect world that he created by his attitude changed a good 180 in five seconds.
Judgment: I think this is the best last movie an actor could ever want.
Posted on January 28, 2010, in 2009, Academy Award Nominee, Adventure, Fantasy and tagged Andrew Garfield, Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell, Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Lily Cole, Terry Gilliam, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.