The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (12A)



Drama (2009)
122mins Fr/Can/UK

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits, Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer(s): Charles McKeown, Terry Gilliam
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Immortal soothsayer Doctor Parnassus bargained with the Devil many centuries ago and now Old Nick has come to collect the soul of the old man's teenage daughter, Valentina. She is an assistant on a travelling circus fronted by Parnassus which also features assistants Anton and Percy. To keep the Devil at bay, Parnassus must win the souls of five strangers by inviting them through his magic mirror.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus

A Film From Heath Ledger & Friends," sombrely proclaims the end credits of Terry Gilliam's fantasy...

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Lionsgate FilmsThere is no escaping the uncomfortable truth that audiences will flock to The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus to witness the final performance of Oscar-nominated actor Ledger before his accidental drug overdose. Gilliam's picture was part-way through principal photography when the world lost one of its brightest talents. The director, whose films have been bedevilled by bad luck throughout the years, took the decision to rework the script, casting three actors (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) as stand-ins for the absent star in three dreamlike sequences. The result is a film that is every bit disjointed and befuddling as it is visually arresting and fanciful. This is a disappointing final tribute to Ledger, and far from one of his best performances. He looks uncomfortable in his own skin and consequently we feel equally unsettled. Hopefully audiences will remember him as tortured cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain or the mentally unhinged Joker in The Dark Knight, which won him a posthumous Oscar as Best Supporting Actor earlier this year.

Immortal soothsayer Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) bargained with The Devil (Tom Waits) many centuries ago, and now Old Nick has come to collect the soul of his teenage daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), who works on a travelling circus fronted by Parnassus and his assistants Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer). To keep The Devil at bay, Parnassus must win the souls of five strangers by inviting them through his magic mirror, into a world beyond their wildest imagination. Suicidal Tony (Ledger) could be the first through the looking-glass but where will the soothsayer find the others?

With thoughts of Ledger lingering uneasily in the mind, The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is a strangely voyeuristic experience that starts with a chill when we see his character hanging from a noose beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London. "Where are we?" asks Tony as he regains consciousness. "Geographically, in the Northern Hemisphere; socially, on the margins; narratively, with some way to go," replies Percy, tipping us off to the film's uncomfortable running time. In truth, Ledger is a supporting player in this haphazard tale. Plummer, Garfield and Cole are centre stage, the latter impressing as a child doomed to suffer the sins of her father. Depp and Law barely have any screen time. Farrell fares slightly better and captures the mannerisms and vocal patterns of Ledger to provide a clear link. Animated sequences and production design are top notch, but the two-hour running time tests our patience. We want so much to be lost in Gilliam's waking dream, but the tragic nightmare behind every frame haunts us.

- Kim Hu


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