Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer(s): Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown
Cinematography: Nicola Pecorini
Original Score: Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna
Running Time: 122 Mins.
Terry Gilliam is a visionary when it comes to film, a true auteur with an undeniable signature, which means that the likelihood is you will either love or hate his output and it is also the very reason he struggles to find the budgets needed to fulfill his visions. His ideas are big, his plots fantastical, fairytales of the post-modern era replete with all manner of creatures, eccentric characters and astounding imagery but often overlooked for these reasons is the heart to be found within, deeply personal and often very moving; this is the reason that I for one am very much of the side of his fandom.
True, Gilliam’s last efforts were chalk and cheese, The Brothers Grimm was very much tethered by studio interference into the director’s vision while Tideland felt a little too rampant for its own good, a comeback if you will to the studio interference that came before. So where does the infamous The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus sit? And is it deserving of more than just the “Heath Ledger’s last film” tag many have labelled it with.
As with all Gilliam’s tales I could not begin to explain the plot here and now, suffice to say it involves a travelling show caught in another era yet peddling its wares in modern day London, the troupe inhabiting this show are as eclectic as you would expect and each actor relishes their role, Troyer as Percy and Plummer as Parnassus are both stand-outs injecting the eccentricities with depth and heart, but kudos to everyone else for standing their ground amongst such a group of larger than life characters.
Entering this world comes Ledger, found hanging from beneath a bridge, he is saved and thrust headfirst into the wager Parnassus has going with Mr. Nick (the great Tom Waits) for the soul of his daughter. Despite being complex to explain, the plot really isn’t rocket science and it is great to see a film that not only has visual style in spades but has a plot that both works and compliments Gilliam’s style so well.
Ledger’s death whilst seemingly a curse on the production is covered exceptionally well by Law, Depp and Farrell, all great and full of pathos for their deceased friend and colleague. That the scenes work so well in context (as Tony enters the Imaginarium) is testament to Gilliam’s storytelling skills with the storytelling device never jarring or feeling forced.
But as ever it is in the visuals and scope that prove to be the film’s strength, and in a wealth of comedic touches that prove Gilliam will forever be a Python. Humour really is a key to keeping you hooked and while it is true some of the more surreal touches won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you can approach with an open mind and prepared to enjoy something far and beyond the usual Hollywood fare you will be richly rewarded.
A wildly imaginative return to form for Gilliam, with material that plays to the ex-Pythons great strengths of visual flourish and thoughtful yet fantastical fairytales The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus rises from its tragic setback and proves a fitting farewell to Ledger…and friends!