Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Without being necessarily perfect, the film pretends to offer more than its counterparts who excessively rely on CGIs. This might be slightly true. However, the story is fairly thin and we’re left with a simple and decent blockbuster. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is 1000 years old. With the help of Valentina (Lily Cole), his fifteen-years-old daughter, along with Percy (Verne Troyer) and Anton (Andrew Garfield), Valentina’s friend, Dr. Parnassus runs a travelling show. In this show, a member of the audience is invited on stage in order to be sent on the other side of a mirror. Afterwards, he/she will be plunged into his/her own imagination.

However, there’s no amusement behind this and the troupe is seriously poor. Many centuries ago, Dr. Parnassus made a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits). In exchange of immortality, Dr. Parnassus must promise he’ll give up to the Devil any child he has (in this case Valentina) by the time she reaches 16 years old. Obviously, the Devil tells Dr. Parnassus that he can keep Valentina only if he can bring five people on the other side of his mirror (without falling into the Devil’s grip). At the same time, the Devil tries to win against Dr. Parnassus by trying to “save” five people. Besides, in this race against the clock, Dr. Parnassus will also seek the help of Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell), a man with a shady past.

With a rather fascinating – albeit simple – story, director Terry Gilliam manages to keep us in despite a slow pace in the first half. As the film’s story progresses, we get to see a funny confrontation between Dr. Parnassus and the Devil. Obviously, we owe that to the magnificent performance of Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits. However, the most surprising thing about the storyline is its ability to stay smooth despite the decease of Heath Ledger, which could have jeopardized the production of the film. In fact, as many have pointed it out, the integration of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Farrell – who are all playing the three different transformations of Tony on the other side of the mirror – looks like it was initially planned.

Nevertheless, the end result of the film leaves us with a decent blockbuster. Despite his mastery of CGIs and directorial skills, Terry Gilliam seems more concerned with delivering an eye-candy film rather than a story with fleshes around its skeleton. For instance, although we know that Dr. Parnassus wanted immortality, we’re not apprised on how he intended to enjoy it. Besides, after going through the film, one wonders if Dr. Parnassus has ever felt psychologically torn when considering the eventuality of giving up any child he’ll have at their sixteenth anniversary to the Devil. After all, we, viewers, could have had a chance to see how Christopher Plummer’s character defined paternal love during his youth.

Finally, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a visual feast for anyone who wants to turn their brain off for at least two hours. Other than that, it's just a film that could have been better if more attention was paid to the script. Besides, this was the first film from Terry Gilliam that I've seen.

Rating: 2.5/5


Origin:Canada/UK/France (2009)
Length:122 minutes
Genre:Fantasy
Screenplay:Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown
Directed by:Terry Gilliam
Starring:Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits and Lily Cole


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