Gilliam's Unlikely Masterpiece
I'm a Terry Gilliam fan. My favorite movie is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The director's new movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has much in common with it, including the same writers. Both are visually imaginative and feature an old man, a forgotten weaver of stories, as the main character. Doctor Parnassus takes it a step further, though. Unlike the Baron the good Doctor (played by Christopher Plummer) doesn't have adventures. Instead, other people have them by stepping into his vast imagination by way of a magic mirror.
The plot, that which there is in any Gilliam flick, involves the Devil (played by Tom Waits) come to collect on a bargain he made with Parnassus years ago. In exchange for immortality Doctor Parnassus agreed to give Mr. Nick his daughter Valentina (played by Lily Cole) when she turns 16. That day is fast approaching now. Always one to wager, the Devil agrees to a new bet; the first one to five souls wins. Helping Parnassus is a mysterious stranger named Tony (played by Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) as well as his small traveling troupe.
Shot around London the movie boasts some familiar sites such as Blackfriars bridge, but it really takes flight each time we enter the Imaginarium. Once inside, each individual must make a choice, good or evil, dreaming or simply settling. Although sometimes short on logic or explanation, the scenes on the other side of the mirror are a spectacle, and a glorious return to form for Gilliam. One can quibble over this and that, but the fact that the movie exists at all is a small miracle. After losing its star Heath Ledger to a prescription drug overdose only halfway through filming, Gilliam and Co. scrambled and produced not only a fitting tribute to Heath, but a beautiful film as well. I've only seen it once, and it will take repeated viewings to fully appreciate what the former Monty Python animator has created. Here's hoping Gilliam's imagination continues to soar for years to come.