Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Over the weekend I got a chance to sit down and watch the obscure and final movie featuring Heath Ledger.

First of all I have to say that I cannot understand how this film did not make a huge box office splash. Moreover I cannot understand how this film is so unknown when it is a true gem to watch.The film centers around Dr. Parnassus, a monk who is in an eternal struggle with the Devil for possession of people’s souls. Rather than a God vs. Devil tale it is more of a possession and greed vs. imagination tale. I won’t go into too much more detail about the story line so as to not give any more story away.

First and foremost director Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and 12 Monkeys) takes the film and does a wonderful visualization of the story. It brings you right back to those imaginative and beautiful cut scenes he worked on in Money Python. He works very hard at trying to create a sense of wonder and youth throughout the film that is often missed. Overall, Mr. Gilliam does a great job of trying to spur you back to your childhood when anything is possible and wonder permeates the world. There is a great balance between the live action and CGI scenes which is rarely pulled off well (I’m looking at you George Lucas) and by the end of the film you are left with a sense of longing for the days when everything was magical. Added to this is the sort of enchanted and bizarre element which is very similar to 12 Monkeys.  The film very quickly adds a sense of “This is really weird and somewhat creepy, but I love it” to your viewing experience and by the credits not only did you enjoy it, but you begin to accept it as the norm.

Another truly amazing feat Mr. Gilliam managed to navigate was the death of Heath Leger which happened before the filming was complete. With some nifty editing and some help from some of Leger’s friends (Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law), the film does not miss a step moving between the four actors. I think what might have been a disaster for the film became quite enjoyable to watch. I also want to point out that all three actors donated both their time and money (the money was given to Ledger’s daughter) which really further entrenches this movie in your heart.

The cast of this film is also a very strong reason to watch. Even in his 80s Christopher Plummer commands the screen and stage with a wonderful interpretation of the wily Dr. Parnassus. The movie is worth watching just to observe the mastery of acting and presence that Plummer brings to the screen. As I stated before the combined effort of Ledger, Depp, Law and Farrell transition seamlessly between everyone. After a while you forget they are different actors altogether.  The supporting cast consisting of Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, and Lily Cole also do an equally wonderful job.

The Bottom Line

If you enjoy movies this is an absolute must see. Even if you do not enjoy the type of film it is worth it to see the final work of an amazing actor and the tribute his friends paid to him. The most wonderful part of the film was the final image before the credits “A film by Heath Leger and Friends”

Worth Stealing if you don’t have the money

P.S. This movie was a pick by my fiance Jess. I want to give credit where credit is due. Especially since she has a good ability to pick terrible movies 🙂


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