Terry Gilliam has seemingly led two lives. His first as part of the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python and his second as the imaginative
but sometimes dark film director. The Imaginarium of Doctor
Parnassus is yet another mind bending experience from the same man
that brought us Brazil and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
With that in mind, we should be well aware of the lengths Mr. Gilliam
will go to mystify an audience.
Imaginarium presents a fantasy world within a real world. Christopher Plummer plays the immortal Dr. Parnassus, who has the ability to make
people’s imaginations come to life. Unfortunately this amazing power is
hidden behind a dated traveling vaudeville show complete with a freak
and a parlor trick expert. From the onset, we are made aware of the most
intriguing aspect of this derelict street show, the young and beautiful
daughter of Dr. Parnassus, Valentina. The film circles around several
different battles for the lovely girl. The first is a battle over her
heart. The parlor trick expert, Anton, finds himself quickly fighting
with the newest member to the group, Tony. For the most part this battle
is uninteresting even though Heath Ledger gives an interesting
performance as a two-faced scoundrel.
The second battle over Valentina proves to be the most interesting part of the film. This battle is over her soul. Tom Waits plays the
villainous Mr. Nick, a manifestation of the devil. Through clever word
play, Mr. Nick continuously fools Dr. Parnassus into a miserable
existence. Like the devil we read about in fairy tales, Mr. Nick makes
cunning wagers with the doctor that appear one sided. Unfortunately for
the gullible good guy, things are not always what they appear. Anytime
these two are on screen, the movie becomes infinitely more interesting.
The constant struggle of God vs. The Devil, good vs. evil, and man vs.
temptation plays itself out with minimal need for special effects or
The occasional green screen excess is something that ruins the other parts of the film. The imagination world is often times overly
cartoonish. It feels more like watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit
during the longer than necessary scenes inside of the Imaginarium.
However, this overly fake universe made it possible for Gilliam to
transition other actors into the role of Tony after the untimely death
of Heath Ledger. While Ledger’s late performances went mostly
uncriticized, his replacements seemed to show more understanding for the
role during their brief moments. Especially Johnny Depp.
Terry Gilliam should be commended for his ability to finish such an ambitious film under harsh circumstances. The death of his main actor,
navigating the rough schedules of replacements, and losing a producer to
cancer are all movie crippling experiences. However, Gilliam was able
to push through and complete a film that may have lacked in certain
areas but still delivered in imagination and scope. (Score:
To read more reviews please check out my website at: www.anthonymerced.com