The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

I just saw The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It tells the story of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) a thousand-year old man who runs a traveling sideshow. It features a mirror through which a person can travel into another world with fantastic landscapes that reflect his or her personality. Parnassus is accompanied by his two assistants, Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer); and by his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). Parnassus has made a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits), according to which he must give the latter his daughter when she turns sixteen, which is to happen in a few days. The troupe rescue a stranger, Tony (Heath Ledger), who then tries to help them foil the Devil’s plot.

My response to this film was mixed. On the one hand, Gilliam has a brilliant visual imagination. I envy any artist who can create the kinds of scenes he can. On the other hand, I found it hard to care about the characters in this film (though Plummer does manage to evoke sympathy as Parnassus). There were too many seemingly interminable scenes of the characters arguing with one another, and it wasn’t always clear what they were arguing about. The film really only comes alive during the scenes in the Imaginarium (including a scene that pokes fun at Bono). I should mention here that Ledger died before the filming was finished. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell successively take his place during the Imaginarium scenes. (I must say, Depp does a pretty good imitation of Ledger.)

An interesting note: Gilliam has said that Tony is based on Tony Blair, who “would say the most insane things and probably he’d believe them himself”.

This film is worth seeing for the Imaginarium scenes, but be prepared to have your patience tested at times.

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4 Responses to “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”

  1. Renegade Eye Says:

    Your writing is in line with friends of mine, who saw the film.

    Be sure to see Crazy Heart. Oscar for Jeff Bridges for certain.

  2. The Spanish Prisoner Says:

    I will have to check it out.

  3. Madam Miaow Says:

    I think Blair would be flattered by the comparison with Ledger, even if he is playing someone with a slender hold on reality, such is his love of celebhood.

    It was beautifully shot and Lily Cole was very good for a newbie in the acting profession. But, like you, I found emotional engagement a bit tough.

  4. The Spanish Prisoner Says:

    You’re probably right about Blair. I also thought that Lily Cole was very good.

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