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DVD Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

May 4, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – A E1 Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: May 4th, 2010

Rated PG for coarse language, mature themes, and frightening scenes

Running time: 101 minutes

Terry Gilliam (dir.)


Terry Gilliam (writer)

Charles McKeown (writer)


Jeff Danna (music)

Mychael Danna (music)


Heath Ledger as Tony

Johnny Depp as Imaginarium Tony #1

Lily Cole as Valentina

Jude Law as Imaginarium Tony #2

Colin Farrell as Imaginarium Tony #3

Christopher Plummer as Doctor Parnassus

Tom Waits as Mr. Nick

Verne Troyer as Percy


Our reviews below:


The Imaginarium of Docter Parnassus DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

1000 years ago, Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) sold his soul to the devil in return for immortality.  The price he had to pay was the soul of his firstborn daughter upon her 16th birthday.  As the date fast approaches, a mysterious stranger appears hanging from a bridge.  This is Tony, who may just be the solution to their problems.  Tony is played by Heath Ledger, in a role that was unfinished at the time of his death, and is somewhat bittersweet to watch.  His part was completed to perfection by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.


Parnassus runs the Imaginarium – a travelling show that opens like a pop-up book, and allows its visitors to travel through a mirror into their imaginations.  The scenes ‘behind the mirror’ are often dazzling.  The design of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is part Dr. Seuss, part Tim Burton and all Terry Gilliam.  The special effects range from breathtaking, to an utterly bizarre sequence right out of Monty Python.  I was mildly confused, but often looked upon the images with wonderment, so a subsequent viewing will allow me to better understand the film.


Although it is an uneven film, sometimes wildly so, it features the last performance by the very-talented Heath Ledger.  It’s also often great to look at and leaves you with a lot to think about – all factors that make it well worth checking out.  Oh yes, and Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer provides a great visual gag as he dons a monkey suit.


The DVD includes a second disc featuring 56 minutes of bonus material, including deleted scenes, commentary, tons of featurettes, and interviews with Heath Ledger.


The Imaginarium of Docter Parnassus DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

In The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, the title character (played by Christopher Plummer) has long ago struck a deal with the devil (Tom Waits) for immortality in exchange for his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) on her 16th birthday.  Dr. Parnassus runs the Imaginarium with his daughter, a young man from the street, and his faithful sidekick Percy (Verne Troyer).


The Imaginarium is a traveling side-show, a huge production all kept in a pop-up wagon.  When watching the film, I was soon surprised to realize that it takes place in present day, with only Parnassus’ troupe stuck in the past.


The story really begins though, not when Parnassus makes his first compulsive bet with the devil, but when the mysterious Tony (Heath Ledger) enters the picture.  Found hanging – alive – under a bridge, he is taken along with the troupe, and soon it’s revealed that his secrets are more numerous than it even appears – and these are secrets that will follow him, both in and out of his imagination…


You know, the thing about this film is, that it’s an ambitious effort, and surprisingly well pulled off.  This being (sadly) Heath Ledger’s final role – (finished by Johnny Depp, Judd Law, and Colin Ferrell respectively), makes the film worth checking out in itself.  The other three (also great) actors completed the role in a way that fit, and rather than being jarring, often left us taking a few seconds to figure out who was in each scene.


It’s definitely Terry Gilliam weird, and certainly not for everyone.  The more you try to analyze it, the more confused you’ll probably be.  But it is interesting to watch, and the story, while takes a while to get to where it’s going at times, was compelling enough to keep me watching.  The scenes in the ‘Imaginarium’ were particularly interesting, and well, imaginative.  I found the ending to also be an interesting resolution to a strange story, and one that made the film really work for me.


The Imaginarium of Docter Parnassus DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a visually stunning fantasy film by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam.  Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a 100-year-old man, who has made a deal with the devil (Tom Waits) to gain immortality.  There is a catch though.  To keep the deal, Doctor Parnassus must hand over his daughter Valentina once she turns 16.  He tries not to think about this as he travels with his magical caravan and performing troupe.  Luck seems to find Parnassus when his troupe saves the life of a mysterious young man (Heath Ledger).  The stranger helps Parnassus persue the devil’s new aim to obtain five souls, so that Valentina can go free.  Of course, the devil can not be trusted.  In the end, Parnassus realizes that when one turns away from God, they will forever be alone.


While slightly confusing, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is an interesting film.  The Lewis Carroll type world behind Doctor Parnassus’ magic mirror is both beautiful and frightening, depending if you are on the Imaginarium or the devil’s side of the river.  The acting is really good.  It is touching to see Heath Ledger’s final performance, which was seamlessly completed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.  Verne Troyer plays a funny role as one of the troupe members.  The score by Mychael and Jeff Danna captures the wonder and awe of this fantasy tale.


If you like fantasy films, or just want to watch something different, then The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is worth checking out.


The Imaginarium of Docter Parnassus DVD Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a magical journey into a fantasy world brought to life by director Terry Gilliam.  Sort of like an Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups in modern-day England, Doctor Parnassus’ imaginarium is a strange, dark, imaginative world that individuals enter through a mirror in the carnival-like travelling stage.  How each person exits depends on which path their imagination chooses – the one the devil offers as temptation or a safer journey.


The movie has the feel and look of a period piece yet the setting is modern-day England.  This makes the story a little hard to follow at times though the visuals effects are really interesting.  What makes this movie so watchable are the visual effects and the excellent acting by all the cast.  Christopher Plummer is a believable Doctor Parnassus and seeing the late Heath ledger as Tony, in what would be his final acting role is somewhat sad.  It is interesting how Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all completed the role of Tony in different scenes in the movie.  There are some lighter moments with Tom Waits as the devil and Verne Troyer (Mini-Me in Austin Powers) providing the best visual laughs.


This is one of those movies that if you are a big fan of Terry Gilliam or any of the actors, especially Heath Ledger, you will want to own the DVD and watch the movie and extras at your leisure.  Otherwise check it out as a rental if you are just curious.  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is strange enough that it will appeal to some but definitely not all.


The Imaginarium of Docter Parnassus DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

I was charmed right from the opening scene when a strange wagon stops in a rough London street and opens up like a pop-up book to reveal a sideshow from a bygone age–The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Passing through a magic mirror takes people into a land of their own imagination that may be a good experience or very bad indeed.  The back story reveals how Dr. Parnassus was tempted away over a thousand years ago from a mountain monastery by the devil Mr. Nick’s promise of immortality, which was then traded away for youth at the cost of his firstborn’s soul on her 16th birthday.  As this date approaches, Mr Nick has agreed to a new wager: whoever can claim the first five souls will win.  The appearance of Tony makes things a lot more interesting, as various characters go through the Imaginarium, either to emerge successfully to add to the Parnassus tally or succumb to the temptations within and be claimed by Mr. Nick.


Though admittedly long, uneven and difficult to follow at times, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has a lot to recommend it.  As we know from his Python days, no one can throw together strange ideas and images quite like Terry Gilliam. Now in his 70th year, he admits in a pre-film appearance that the film was a work of self-indulgence sparing us none of his exuberant creativity, which means that it will not appeal to everybody. Its production was further threatened by Heath Ledger’s death. The decision to complete the scenes of his character Tony with three other fine actors–Johnny Depp, Jude Law & Colin Farrell–was an inspired move, justifying the film’s attribution to “Heath Ledger & friends, directed by Terry Gilliam”. The strong cast includes Christopher Plummer in the title role, Tom Waits as Mr. Nick, and Verne Troyer as the faithful factotum, appearing in various sideshow guises from Moor to monkey.  Rather than give up on it, I am looking forward to subsequent viewings to fill in details I missed the first time and remind me of the many delights on offer.


The BluRay/DVD release has a generous array of additional material that I look forward to investigating.


Consensus: Though uneven, and sometimes confusing, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has enough visual intrigue, an interesting story, and the last performance from Heath Ledger – all factors that make it worth checking out. *** (Out of 4)

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