The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is a Fantasy and Adventure film directed by Terry Gilliam. The two hours long feature appeared on the cinema screens for the first time in 2009.
Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his daughter Valentina (Lyle Coyle) travel around London in an old wagon that folds out into a Victorian Theater, along with Percy (Verne Troyer) and Anton (Andrew Garfield) and are later on joined by Tony (Heath Ledger). The story turns around Parnassus’ various bets with Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), better-known as ‘The Devil’. The Imaginarium, a world of dream, is controlled by Parnassus’ mind.
Terry Gilliam genius and imagination finally created the film he was aiming at all along the years. The acting, The costumes and the production are a delight for the eyes and the mind.
The film isn’t based on anybody’s work as Terry Gilliam wanted to do something completely new and original.
The characters seem to be brought from another time and contrast strongly with the debauchery of mondern LONDON.
The lastest of Terry Gilliam‘s films didn’t escape the series of misfortunes that seems to have haunted him since his beginning with The Monthy Python. After the tragic death of Heath Ledger in the middle of the filming, Gilliam wanted to stop shooting but relatives and actors convinced him to continue and make the film a tribute to Ledger’s extraordinary career and talent. Terry Gilliam decided to change the credits of the film to ‘from Heath Ledger and friends‘, saying that the film wasn’t about him anymore.
Johnny Depp, Collin Farrell and Jude Law came to rescue the film and interpreted the different aspects of Tony’s personality when he is in the Imaginarium. The addition of the three characters enriched the film. Gilliam said that Heath “co-directed the film” in a way. When the tragedy occurred Gilliam had to rewrite the script in order to finish the story and ended with a better and more complete one. The fact that three actors replaced the role of one is a great testimony to the bonds existing amid the cinema community.
The similarity between Heath Ledger and Johnny Depp traits and expressions made the transition smoother.
Each one of Terry Gilliam‘s films aims at perfection. Along the years Terry Gilliam represented parts of himself in his films through the characters or the story. In 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' it is the characters that represent different aspects of his personality. Doctor Parnassus is the old forgotten miserable and self pitying part of himself. Anton is the young and positive and Mr. Nick his darker part.
Tony is a very interesting character. With Heath Ledger‘s acting you can’t stop yourself from loving this despicable man. Even though Tony is an important character, Parnassus is the one that carries the story along; the film is about him. Christopher Plummer‘s extraordinary performance gives a real dimension to his character.
The film ran out of money half way through the shooting. But it didn’t stop Terry Gilliam, he himself said that “things grow out of lack of money sometimes“. Which will appear to be true with the costumes and decors.
The Canadian costume designer Monique Prudhomme was rewarded for her amazing work. She received the ‘Best Costume’ award at the Satellite award and the ‘Exellence in Costume Design for Film – Fantasy’ from the Costume Designer Guild Award.
The costumes had to show Parnassus age and his travels through time and space. In order to create a perfect wardrobe for the film she went around London, in every secondhand and charity shop she could find and did “a shameless mix of every period and every ethnicity. It’s like Doctor Parnassus has been around the world, and has gathered over the centuries all these treasures“.
In order to watch and comprehend any film made by Terry Gilliam you need “to forget everything you’ve learned as an adult, the things that limit your view of the world, your fears, your prejudices, your preconceptions, try to rediscover what it was like to be a child with the sense of wonder and innocence” Terry Gilliam,
prologue of Tideland.
The film isn’t design for a child, it is made for adults. Adults that can still dream, that are able to find the child in themselves. Lyle Coyle explained that “Terry says that children get these films a lot better than adults do because they allow themselves to be taken to a crazy journey“.
He successfully critiques our society through this modern moral tale. Not a single blemish of society is spared, from the working class London family to the merciless business man.
As he said himself this film is “the most mature thing I’ve done and the most juvenile“.
The Imaginarium is Terry Gilliam's own fantasy, world and imagination; and if you allow yourself to dream, it will be yours ...