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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Imaginarium a haunting sendoff for Ledger

    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

    Davis Films

    Released January 8, 2010

    Final Grade: A-


    During the creation of “”The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,”” director/writer Terry Gilliam’s life seemed to be shaped by risk-taking: it flowed through the screenplay and out into the shocking weeks following the death of Heath Ledger (playing Tony in the film). It left Gilliam scrambling to pull together a cast talented enough to finish a role begun by the fallen, multifaceted actor.

    Madly in love at 1,000 years old, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) offers Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) — a character who, though he piques the viewer’s interest, doesn’t quite embody evil — his future child in exchange for his youth. But when his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) nears the fated date of her 16th birthday, Parnassus grapples for a way out, and a third bet is made. With the help of an unlikely companion found hanging beneath a bridge (Ledger), Parnassus and his traveling theatre troupe, composed of Valentina, Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer) strive to win over five souls before the Devil has a chance to possess Valentina forever.

    Smears of residual theater make-up and grandiose garments appear against a backdrop of poverty in the 21st century — the remains of a world both beautiful and misunderstood. Gilliam underscores the vital role imagination plays in shaping what makes us human and what we might be without it.

    Camera shots hint at Gilliam’s small budget, but his graphical conception of the other side of the mirror, Parnassus’s Imaginarium, proves nothing short of spectacular. Gilliam’s journey through others’ desires twists and contorts in images of dodgy motel vacancies, giant Russian mothers and ladders ascending past clouds and into one’s dreams.

    With little-to-no acting experience, Cole and Garfield are the perfect oddities for the cast and a pleasant surprise for the profession. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell showcase their talent by seamlessly blending into a role they never should have had to fill, though the many facets of Tony are only another layer of “”Parnassus”” to relish. Ledger was beautiful; Tony as a character will not be remembered as the highlight of Ledger’s career, but the many nuances he uses to bring him to life will.

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