The imaginarium of Dr Parnassus is a wonderful modern faerie tale. It mixes classic structures and characters (Old Nick) with modern settings, language, and characters.
review ratings explained
Plot: Very good. A classic style of storytelling, a new story. A bet with the devil. Souls to be won or lost. The classic framework provides the structure that makes the plot easy to follow. Easy to follow but not overly predictable. Cunning plans and twists. There is uncertainty about the virtue and honesty of some characters. Who is working with, for, Nick? The film holds a cheeky mirror to modern values as it portrays our dreams.
Gilliam does not write his female characterisations in as much depth as his male characters. There is only one noteable female character in the film. Her contribution is central to the plot while the role is hardly touched and seems superficial. Lets call her a token women. A pretty girl that needs rescuing. Sigh. A blot on an otherwise wonderful film.
A related disappointment was the pedestrian ending to the main storyline. The final scenes felt a bit anemic. The scenes tied-up the damsel’s storyline quickly and neatly. This felt forced and out-of-keeping with the plucky playing in the other, mainly male, storylines. There are many wonderful ways that Terry could have ended the film. I suspect Gilliam’s creative freedom was somehow compromised.
Cast: Excellent. Performances that had the kind of depth that comes from allowing talented actors to develop, improvise and extend their characters. Apparently Heath Ledger’s last line before he died was ‘Don’t shoot the Messenger’ and Jonny Depp improvised the same line when playing Ledger’s character in the imaginarium.
Sets. Excellent. Physical locations included some of my favourite places, such as Ledenhall market in London and the Public Library in Vancouver BC. The contrast between the architecture in these two locations was used well as a visual clue to different tones, temperaments, stages of the plot.
The animated sets were breath taking. Apparantly breathtaking animated sets are the norm for widely distributed films by famous directors with excellent casts. Jolly good. Thoroughly enjoyable. Lots of ooOOOooooze and aaAAARRRRSSSssse.
Within the imaginarium these fantasy sets had the beauty, unpredictability and the ominousness of real dreams.
Audience: one thing that interferred with my total immersion in this fabulous film was the audience. Specifically, the lady sat next to me. She insisted on sniffing loudly at 1spm (1 sniff per minute). Every few minutes there was a cough, sneeze, or other substantial air movement in her facial regions. She did have some props for this activity, tissues, but the noise and potential infection kept drawing me out of the film into an unpleasant reality. Ick.
I will be watching this film again.