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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

By D.E.Levine

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown
Cast: Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Andrew Garfield, Quinn Lord, Verne Troyer, Paloma Faith, Cassandra Sawtell, Carrie Genzel, Michael Eklund, Brad Dryborough, Ryan Grantham, Johnny Harris, Mark Benton et al.
Producers: Terry Gilliam, William Vince, Amy Gilliam and Samuel Hadida
Executive Producers: Dave Valleau and Victor Hadida
Music: Michael Danna and Jeff Danna
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy

The last film that Heath Ledger worked on, Terry Gilliam was left with an unfinished film and a need to find a way to complete it when Ledger died. It tugs at the heart when Ledger's character talks about those who die young saying "They are forever young, they won't grow old". That's exactly how we will always remember Ledger.

There's a great deal of star power in the film and a mirror to the imagination in a carnival show allows Gilliam to use considerable imagery, but the film lacks the qualities found in his earlier films Time Bandits and Brazil. It's definitely more of an art house film than a popular commercial cinema venture.

However, Gilliam successfully weaves the contemporary and the fantastical into a dark yet whimsical package. Brimming with stunning digital visual effects, the basic story involves the classic duel between the forces of imagination led by Dr. Parnassus and Mr. Nick, the devil, who is the architect of fear and ignorance.

With a setting of a horse drawn carnival sideshow in modern London, Dr. Parnassus invites ticket holders to enter a world of their own imagination by stepping through a large mirror. Once on the other side fates vary and faces change.

It's this assumption that permitted Gilliam to fill Ledger's vacated role with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. Ledger only appears in about a third of the film and without the participation of the other actors (all friends of his) the film could not have been completed.

Ledger initially appears as a man hanged from Blackfriar's Bridge with his hands tied behind his back. Claiming to remember nothing, he is renamed George by the carnival troupe and joins them. Dr. Parnassus believes the devil placed George with his troupe to make trouble because he and Mr. Nick have a lifelong wager with Dr. Parnassuss' daughter's soul as the prize.

The good doctor and Mr. Nick have a deal where they bet on people's souls in the world behind the mirror. One of the conditions is the doctor's immortality. Another involves the doctor's daughter on her sixteenth birthday. It is George who becomes the lynch-pin in the wager between the doctor and the Devil as the birthday countdown proceeds.