The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, review

(film release: 2009)

A group of traveling performers struggle to give their audience a wonderful time, as well as get an audience for the most part. Then they find a guy (Tony, played mostly by Heath Ledger) dangling from the bottom of a bridge, save him, and pretty much get a small audience thanks to him. Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) sends people into a fascinating alternate reality through the use of a mind trick he learned over a thousand years prior, but he is also continuously tricked by Mr Nick (Tom Waits) into placing bets to see who will win and if the world really does end.

During this time, Mr Nick tricks Parnassus into making “one last bet.” If Parnassus can convert 5 souls before Mr Nick, then Valentina (Lily Cole, who bears a striking resemblance to Katherine Isabelle [Ginger Snaps]) will be free to live as she likes.

There’s  all kinds of twists and turns, and due to the unfortunate occurrence of Heath Ledger’s death, they also put a new twist on the film by having Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell play alternate Tonys while they were in the Imaginarium. This was absolutely fascinating and they pulled it off really well. It was a lot like watching Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and it was really neat to see how they differentiated between Reality and the Imaginarium’s Reality (mostly through the use of CGI, but I think they pulled it off really well) .

I found myself enjoying the throwback stage sequences, but that’ me. I’m sure a few people don’t enjoy that early 20th century/silent film costuming and staging. The stories are really well done and I found the film really neat.

During the film, The Hanged Man (tarot card) is shown as, I felt, a symbol of change or choice. I had to double check my book because the meaning of The Hanged Man was on the edge of my brain and I could not remember what it was (it’s kind of a change, more like a change of spiritual/worldly perspective and knowledge than your basic idea of change, which could be change of anything like instead of going for the soda you go get tea instead). The symbols on Tony’s head are familiar, but more in the “Those look like something from Wingdings on Wordpad” than some sort of “eery, dark occult” meaning.

So, I think that kids would enjoy this (possibly those over the age of 7 because it could be easily confusing), big kids would enjoy this. Those who enjoy the world of Wonderland (that’s what it made me think of), those who are interested in seeing Heath Ledger’s last works would find this fascinating, those who enjoy fantasy works would like this. Even, possibly, those who enjoy the world of Harry Potter would like this.

I would recommend this film to friends if they were interested in things like this, people who have kids, etc. I enjoyed the film, I thought it was pretty neat. It might be a while until I watch it again seeing as how we have a few hundred films waiting to be watched on our Netflix lists and in the living room (the living room has around…50 films we haven’t watched that we’ve borrowed from people and bought from different places)


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