The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
- Rob Carnevale
- 1 October 2009
Terry Gilliam has pulled a rabbit from his mad hat with his latest, a lively if flawed fantasy that looks set to reward him with one of his biggest hits. Notorious for having been interrupted by the death of Heath Ledger, the film only saw the light of day once the late actor’s friends Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped in. What could have been a mess now stands as a fascinating tribute to both its late star and the director’s determination to honour his memory.
The story is utterly Gilliam-esque, focusing on immortal carnival owner Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) as he enters a wager with the devil to save the life of his daughter before the latter collects her soul in return for granting him eternal life. Ledger plays Tony, a charity owner of dubious character who has been saved from the hangman’s noose, and who may offer Parnassus the unlikeliest of aids.
Given the trauma surrounding its creation, Gilliam’s film offers an enthralling morality tale that’s full of the director’s trademark visual panache as well as strong performances. It unravels towards the end but is generally a return to the type of form the director showed with Brazil and The Fisher King.
(12A) 122min. General release from Fri 16 Oct.