The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) – Film Review

imaginarium of doctor parnassus

Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Christopher Plummer
Certificate: 12

by Dan Berlinka

Sentimental whimsy that comes perilously close to being a vanity project for a director who, if not altogether out of ideas, is at the very least re-walking familiar ground.

Inevitably, much focus is on the huge problems the sad death of Heath Ledger brought to the filming. But the substitution of Messrs Depp, Law and Farrell in the fantastical scenes works remarkably well.

Unfortunately Ledger himself does not display the flashing brilliance that ignited his Joker and it is the Dark Knight that will remain as his legacy.

imaginarium of doctor parnassus film review terry gilliam

“Visual flights of fancy are stunning”

Of course, the film is not without its merits; some of the visual flights of fancy are stunning and Lily Cole is surprisingly delightful. But it’s hard to know who the movie is for. It’s too slow for kids, yet lacks any grounding in reality for the grown-ups. Where, say, Pan’s Labyrinth used fantasy as a counterpoint to the reality of the Spanish Civil War, here the ‘real’ world is almost every bit as magical as the one through the looking glass.

The end result is about as good as any picture with the word ‘Imaginarium’ in the title was ever going to be. I could say I was disappointed, but in truth it was pretty much what I expected.


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