The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is not for those looking for mindless entertainment. Be prepared for some fantastic visuals and thoughtful insight into the nature of the human soul.
The story is about an old man, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) who scrapes a living with a traveling show that magically introduces people into their own fantasies, while simultaneously granting them a choice to sell their souls to the devil. The old doctor is trapped in an unfortunate wager with the devil himself, who is coming to claim his beloved daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole) on her 16th birthday as payment for the doctor’s past pleasures and immortality. The characters trudge through their weary task of attracting uninterested audiences until a charming and mysterious stranger (Heath Ledger) falls not-so-coincidentally into their path and shows them how to put on a show. But will it be enough to save Valentina?
I won’t give any spoilers here, because it’s worth experiencing the movie without knowing the final twists of the plot.
Terry Gilliam directs this colorful film in which we see Heath Ledger in his final performance, which was extended after his untimely death by Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell. Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, and the stunning Lily Cole round out the cast. The only performance I was not thrilled with was Verne Troyer, who had an interesting character but delivered his lines as if he were out of breath and reading them off someone’s forehead.
I was expecting there to be little plot because the movie spends so much energy on the creative visuals, but I thought the movie offered a satisfying story along with the kaleidoscope scenery. It cleverly combines the innocence of storytelling and dreams with the darker, more sensual side of human nature. Appropriately enough, religious symbolism was rampant and cleverly employed. If
Ultimately, I think the movie can be summed up with the simple question it presents so intriguingly: What would you give in exchange for your wildest dreams?
I’d definitely recommend this one – catch it in a theater if you can, or get the DVD.
~ C. Noel Carlson