Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole
Directed by: Terry Gilliam (“The Brothers Grimm”)
Written by: Terry Gilliam (“The Brothers Grimm”) and Charles McKeown (“Brazil”)
He’s always been an acquired cinematic taste, but more recently filmmaker Terry Gilliam has been a harder pill to swallow than ever before.
Since returning to the movie set in 2005 for his incoherent fantasy “The Brothers Grimm” after a seven-year hiatus, Gilliam also struck out with the artistic yet immensely disappointing “Tideland” that same year.
His losing streak stays intact with his newest venture into the bizarre with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” the final film of Heath Ledger’s career. The late Oscar-winning actor passed away in January 2008 while in the middle of shooting “Parnassus.” To complete the film, Gilliam, after tweaking the script a bit, recruited the services of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to play Ledger’s character as the restructured story called for it.
In the film, Ledger portrays an amnesiac man named Tony who joins a struggling traveling sideshow through the streets of London. Bleak cityscapes, however, are not what Gilliam is bringing you to see. One step into the Imaginarium – Gilliam’s personal Looking Glass – and he’s transported you into the fanciful mind of Parnassus, an immortal who has dealt the soul of his daughter (Lily Cole) to the devil himself. Think of it as a psychedelic version of “Being John Malkovich” once you’ve made the trip.
The narrative, however, slowly fades once you are inside and realize it was more interesting to be curious about it than actually experience it. Basically, Gilliam has given us a frantic story about good versus evil that isn’t the swan song Ledger deserved. While “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” might have moments of visual awe, piecing the rest together into some kind of meaningful fairytale proves to be an impossible feat.