The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
- Director: Terry Gilliam
- Cert: 12A
- Details: UK/France/Canada / 122mins .
- Release Date: 16/10/2009
Doctor Parnassus (Plummer) is the host of a travelling show where punters are invited to indulge in whatever their imagination can handle by passing through a magic mirror. As part of his deal for immortality he made with the devil (Waits) centuries ago, the devil will take Parnassus' daughter Valentina (Cole) on her sixteenth birthday (in three days time) and this weighs heavily on his mind. Into this mix comes Tony (Ledger), whom the troupe save from an attempted suicide, and he joins in the travelling show - but Tony has dark secrets of his own...
It's not news to hear that Heath Ledger died before the film was complete and, to compensate, Gilliam employed Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to fill out the role. This tactic, although unavoidable, works: whenever Ledger steps inside the good doctor's Imaginarium, his surrogates take over, adding to the film's zany tone. Not that it needs to be zanier. Gilliam's films have always been 'busy': odd camera angles, cluttered shots, bizarre colours, and actors' lines coming on top of each other. All these are present here, but Gilliam adds a Salvador Dali-esque vibe this time out. The result is fantastic to watch, like being inside the mind of a child after a heavy session of coffee-flavoured Smarties. The audience is treated to a chase on mile-high stilts, a band of cross-dressing policemen, desert rivers that turn into snakes, and more besides. There's no doubt that this is Gilliam's most impressive work - visually
Narratively, however, it's his worst. Teaming up again with his Baron Munchausen and Brazil co-writer Charles McKeown, Imaginarium... Lacks the cohesiveness of those movies (yes, even Munchausen boasts more logic than this). The story, sadly, is bunk. Worse still, it's impenetrable. You could tip it on its side, turn it inside out or show it backwards and it would still make as much sense as it does now. There's no focus or structure to the film. Nor is there emotional impact to speak of; the multitude of ideas put forward are confusing, so relating to anyone's predicament is hard work. The characters are mere props for Gilliam here, things that blend into his admittedly fantastic backdrops.
All eyes will be on Ledger, and although he's fine here in what is really half a role, Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight will be the films everyone will remember.
Review by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Friday 16th October 2009 | Movie Review
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