Synopsis: An immortal carnival master must collect five souls or lose his daughter to the devil.
Release Date: December 25, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
There comes a certain moment while watching a film when everything comes together. The experience has been and continues to be rewarding until the final frame passes on the screen. There is another moment that is extremely rare and only occurs in a very small fraction of movies. It is when you realize everything you have seen before has not caused such a stir in your mind as the film you are currently watching. ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ joins the ranks of these rarities in cinema. The plot may seem simple. A man on the run joins a circus-like show run by the immortal Doctor Parnassus, his daughter, his closest friend, and an orphan they took in as a boy. The Doctor’s immortality stems from a bet with the Devil many years before, and the devil has come to collect his part of the bargain. Doctor Parnassus’ daughter is to become the Devil’s servant on her 16th birthday. In an effort to thwart this from happening a new bet is forged. Whomever can capture five souls first wins. If it is Doctor Parnassus he will save his daughter from the Devil. Moderately simple to comprehend, right? Nothing in the world of Doctor Parnassus is simple and nothing makes complete sense at first glance. An inquisitive mind is needed to decipher the many layers and intricate details of the story. The multitude of canted angles only strengthen this fact. Nothing is balanced but structure is present. This is not a film you can sit idly watching while never taking the extra step of losing your person in the story. It will challenge everything you know of cinema and the ways in which the mind comprehends information, both visually and aurally. It will entertain you to the point of exhaustion because you have not been given the chance to be passive. Just as it temps the characters to choose the good or evil path, it will tempt you into either releasing your mind to its whims or fighting the freedom that it may bring to your cinematic involvement. It is my hope you give in to the temptation of release.
Terry Gilliam delivers a script that is classical, avante-garde, and wholeheartedly foreign all in one. Not such an easy feat. The story is unique, the characters full of enough dimension, the underlying themes relatable, and it is structured beautifully as it moves between the real world and those in the characters minds. With the untimely passing of the film’s lead, Heath Ledger during Production, the script had to be re-written and adapted to accommodate his passing. The resulting changes only make it a stronger story with a more fantastical result. Heath Ledger is still at the forefront as the on the run Charity Founder who is wanted by the authorities as well as a group of Mobsters. When he finds himself entangled with Dr. Parnassus and his carnivalesque band of misfits he himself experiences the magic and wonder of what is behind the fake glass mirror. This is where the writing shines in its new form. Instead of seeing Heath Ledger as the character Tony in the imagination created worlds and adventures we instead see one of the other three actors who stepped in to complete the film after his death. They each give a look of surprise and bewilderment when they (as Tony) see that their face is no longer what exists in reality. This fits perfectly with the story as Tony is trying to hide from his past life and what better way to do that then to become someone else. The imaginarium is meant to create what is inside the mind, what people desire or feel, and what Tony feels is the need to escape. Knowing the backstory of the Production and what the former script would have given us it is hard to imagine it another way. It is perfect in its new form and although it would have been great to see more of a gifted actor who was lost far too soon shine on screen one last time it appears to have worked in great measures for the film as a whole.
What a world. Visually imaginative and strikingly unique. One second it is a dark and dreary place, devoid of color or depth. The outskirts of society where the undesirables call home. The next an array of color and magic. Where your eyes cannot perceive the shear magnitude of what they are witnessing on screen. The worlds created in the imaginarium are never stagnant or barren. The imperfections of them effects wise only make them more perfect as they pertain to the story. They are a seemingly endless dimension in creativity and wonderment.
The film inevitably answers one of the most important questions you can ask yourself in terms of friendship, “What would I do without you?”…”Get a (sorry, no spoilers here, you will have to see the movie to discover just how funny the answer is.)”. For all the quirky dialogue from all the characters, the humorous happenings and the like it all really comes down to one person who gives the comedy its zing, Verne Troyer as Percy. Whether the line is being said from his own mouth or directed at his character it is hilarious. Expect to spend the ride home repeating a couple lines of dialogue with uproarious laughter. Then realize they all belong to Percy.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Terry GilliamWilliam Vince
- Producer(s): Terry GilliamCharles McKeownJohnny Depp (Tony – First Transformation)
- Screenwriter(s): Heath Ledger (Tony)Colin Farrell (Tony – Third Transformation)Jude Law (Tony – Second Transformation)
- Story: Christopher Plummer (Dr. Parnassus)
- Cast: Verne Troyer (Percy) Mick AudsleyNicola PecoriniAnastasia Masaro
- Editor(s): Monique Prudhomme
- Cinematographer: Jeff and Mychael Danna
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: FranceCanada