film review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009)

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The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus posterLooking over Terry Gilliam‘s filmography on IMDb, I notice that I’ve actually seen 9 of his 14 films… so you’d think I’d have an idea by now of what to expect. But the fact is that you just can’t know what to expect with him. Except that it’s going to be odd.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is odd. To be honest, I don’t know if I liked it. It was interesting but it wasn’t particularly satisfying. It looked good but I don’t know… I thought it would look amazing, that it would be set in this fantastical whimsical land and it wasn’t. But at the same time I don’t know why I really expected that… jumping to conclusions… I guess the word Imaginarium conjures up, for me, a carnival kind of atmosphere and that’s kind of backdrop we’d have on the story. But it wasn’t. Which is fine, it just wasn’t what I expected.

What it was, was a loose modern-day old style cautionary tale. Or at least that’s the best way I can describe it. My problem with it was that the story was… clouded. Or not clouded enough, they could have gone either way and like so many films, they just didn’t really decide which way to go. I suppose my opinion has to come in here as well… I like a good reveal and it kept looking like there was going to be one but in the end it was split. There was a reveal but there was a drip feed as well and I just don’t know if the timing really worked. There wasn’t really that convergence that you need with if you’re doing both.

There is, of course, the inevitable question. How much of an effect did Heath Ledger‘s death have on the film? I don’t think the effect is particularly apparent but how can I know? Terry Gilliam’s films are such personal works that it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t affected in some way. I do think the transitions are seamless though, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell can be proud of their work. They really do uphold Heath Ledger’s legacy, they completed his last work while in no way treading on it. The faces changed but the character continued on.

Quick mentions as well, I thought Lily Cole was very good. I look forward to seeing her in more films. Andrew Garfield (who played Anton) on the other hand was crap, he almost spoiled the film on the me to be honest. What surprises me is that I’ve read other reviews where people really like him. I don’t know why he was in the film at all… either get a better actor to bump up the character or write a role for him that is *ahem* better suited to his talent. Actually it’s annoying me thinking about him… I’ll forget him now.

So, what more can I say? It’s a strange film. I would recommend it because I definitely think it’s worth a watch, it’s extremely imaginative… In fact the more I think about it the more I liked it, maybe I should watch it again. But the problem remains, I just didn’t think it was that fulfilling… though it did remind me… if you play with fire…


N.B. You know what, I’m not actually sure what the Imaginarium was in the end… was it the mirror, the show or the imagining?


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