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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

January 12, 2010

Terry Gilliam can claim to be the king of bad luck when it comes to cinema, and he really wouldn't be too far off with such a claim. Almost all, if not all, of his films have been met with disaster and multiple problems during and after production. Through all of this, Gilliam has fought the battles and created some really amazing works. I could go on and on about his films but that could fill up a whole new blog post. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus continues Gilliam's unlucky streak, one of the main actors, Heath Ledger, died before completion of film. Like his films before, Gilliam takes rein, works through it and creates yet another beautiful work.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus follows a small group in a traveling show. This traveling show is a bit different though, a chosen member of the audience may walk through a magical mirror to face their fantasies. They must choose between good and evil, good personified by Parnassus and evil personified by Mr. Nick. Mr. Nick is basically the devil and he's played by Tom Waits, now that's some good casting! Dr. Parnassus is a Jesus/Buddha type character that represents imagination and fantasy.

In a way Gilliam is a Dr. Parnassus of sorts. His films are fantastical and wild but they often bomb in the box office. The character Doctor Parnassus goes around with his traveling show trying to show people wonder and fantasy, it often ends with the public ignoring him or starting a fight with his traveling company. Terry Gilliam has some amazing films out there but not many people seem to be watching them. When he does make them he's met with many problems along the way. Often in his films there is a battle between real and make believe, this is a theme that Gilliam has been handling throughout his work. There is the mundane world of "reality" in his works while a magical world takes place in the character's minds.

Luckily Heath Ledger completed all the filming that takes place in the "real world" of the film, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell fill in for Heath's parts which take place in the magical world of the mirror. If one was unaware of Ledger's death during filming they would think it was simply a cute way to get some cameos in. It doesn't seem weird or strange, it seems like a really nice homage being that all the actors that stood in for Heath were in fact good friends of his.

The movie itself started to feel a bit long towards the end, strangely though I couldn't seem to find any scenes worth cutting out. While I do enjoy Terry Gilliam's Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen much more, this film was entertaining and had some real underlying messages and ideas being said. For example, it was clear to me that there was much being said on the topic of religion and believing in God or not. Maybe that's just something I saw in the film because it's something I think about but I can clearly pick out examples when it is discussed.

Overall, Dr. Parnassus is a good film, not great when compared to some films of Gilliam's but a good film nonetheless.






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