Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

4.4 15
Director: Terry Gilliam

Cast: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits


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Set in the present day, director Terry Gilliam's fantastical morality tale follows the traveling show of the mysterious Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) -- a man who once won a bet with the Devil himself, and possesses the unique ability to guide the imagination of others. Many centuries ago, Dr. Parnassus won immortality in aSee more details below

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Set in the present day, director Terry Gilliam's fantastical morality tale follows the traveling show of the mysterious Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) -- a man who once won a bet with the Devil himself, and possesses the unique ability to guide the imagination of others. Many centuries ago, Dr. Parnassus won immortality in a bet that found the malevolent Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) coming up short. While few would be foolish enough to try their luck against the powers of darkness a second time, Dr. Parnassus did precisely that -- this time trading his mortality for youth on the understanding that his firstborn would become the property of Mr. Nick when the child reaches his or her 16th birthday. Flash-forward to the present day, and Dr. Parnassus' daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), is about to celebrate her sweet sixteen. Dr. Parnassus is desperate to save his little girl from her fiery fate, so when Mr. Nick arrives to collect, he senses the good doctor's malaise and cooks up a wager too enticing to refuse: Dr. Parnassus and Mr. Nick will each compete to seduce five souls, with possession of Valentina going to whoever manages to complete the task first. As the competition begins to heat up, a mysterious man named Tony (Heath Ledger) appears. Could Tony be the one man capable of helping Dr. Parnassus win the competition and save Valentina? While the sudden death of prominent Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus player Heath Ledger in January of 2008 left Gilliam and company scrambling to find a means of salvaging the film -- which was already well into principal photography at the time -- the cavalry soon arrived in the form of Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, who each serve as alternate-dimension versions of Tony when the character crosses through a paranormal mirror.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
A celluloid dreamer whose distinctively unique vision has seemed to dim somewhat in recent years, Terry Gilliam comes remarkably close to recapturing the magic of his most memorable films in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. A glorious mess of challenging concepts and deliciously surreal visuals, Imaginarium finds Gilliam doing what Gilliam does best -- letting his imagination run wild and hoping the audience can keep pace. Though that will be a nigh impossible task for many moviegoers, longtime fans will still find plenty to love about the notoriously troubled production, including the fact that Gilliam has come closer than ever to rendering his legendary Monty Python interstitials in live action. Images of a monolithic policeman head erupting from the earth and chorus lines of stocking-clad constables dancing like the Rockettes serve as amusing reminders of the director's talent for surfing the stream of consciousness, but also serve to enhance the story by permitting glimpses into each character's greatest dreams and darkest fears. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) was just a young monk when he first met Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), and couldn't resist the prospect of striking a bargain with Old Scratch in exchange for immortality. Centuries later, Dr. Parnassus met the woman of his dreams, and once again wagered with Mr. Nick -- this time in a bid to regain his youth. But there was a catch: in order to turn back time and win his true love's heart, Dr. Parnassus promised Mr. Nick the couple's firstborn, with the agreement that the Old Gentleman would come to collect on the child's 16th birthday. Now, on the eve of that very birthday, Mr. Nick offers Dr. Parnassus one last chance to save his daughter, Valentina: Dr. Parnassus and Mr. Nick will each compete to seduce five souls, with possession of Valentina going to whomever manages to complete the task first. As Dr. Parnassus and his band of misfits travel the streets of London granting commoners a chance to literally step into a world of their own imagination, the race to collect as many souls as possible begins. Just as the competition starts to heat up, Dr. Parnassus' gang saves a well-dressed stranger named Tony (Heath Ledger) from certain death. The more Dr. Parnassus gets to know Tony, the more convinced he becomes that the ambitious amnesiac could be the key to saving Valentina from an infinity in the inferno. One needn't be a movie-news junkie to recall that the fate of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was thrown into jeopardy back in January 2008 when Heath Ledger died unexpectedly. At the time of his death, Ledger had shot only a fraction of his scenes. No stranger to adversity (see Lost in La Mancha), Gilliam managed to complete Parnassus with the help of Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell -- each of whom agreed to play an alternate-dimension version of Tony every time the character stepped through Dr. Parnassus' magical mirror. Somewhat amazingly, the necessary innovation actually adds to the film's hallucinogenic charms rather than detracting from them; Tony is a mysterious character with a questionable past, and while there's no doubt Ledger would have capably handled the role by himself, enlisting other actors to portray Tony after he steps into the Imaginarium helps to underline the character's desperate identity crisis. It may have been the saving grace of the film, too, given that Gilliam and co-writer Charles McKeown's screenplay ultimately fails to strike the balance between the cerebral and the surreal that rendered The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys instant classics. Still, Gilliam's prowess as a visual storyteller has always trumped his talents as a writer, and in a time when so many screenwriters make painstaking attempts to explain every minute plot detail, his unwavering faith in imagination permits him to let the audience exercise their own a bit. There are few easy answers in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and moviegoers who detest being spoon-fed may actually view this as a benefit rather than a drawback. Given the ambition, scale, and innovation displayed here -- not the mention the tragic circumstances surrounding the production -- it's something of a small miracle that The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus works at all, much less stands as a giant step up from Gilliam's previous collaboration with Ledger -- the near unwatchable The Brothers Grimm. Perhaps if Gilliam can finally get The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in the can, the director will be on his way to delivering another unmitigated classic.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Heath Ledger Tony
Christopher Plummer Doctor Parnassus
Tom Waits Mr. Nick
Johnny Depp Imaginarium Tony #1
Jude Law Imaginarium Tony #2
Colin Farrell Imaginarium Tony #3
Verne Troyer Percy
Andrew Garfield Anton
Lily Cole Valentina
Richard Riddell Martin
Katie Lyons Martin's Girlfriend
Richard Shanks Friend of Martin
Bruce Crawford Face Changed Martin
Johnny Harris Policeman
Lorraine Cheshire Mum
Mark Benton Dad
Lewis Gott Diego
Sian Scott Linda
Simon Day Uncle Bob
Moya Brady Aunty Flo
Charles McKeown Fairgrounds Inspector
Mackenzie Gray First Monk
Yurij Kis Second Monk
Ian Wallace Third Monk
Amanda Walker Shopper
Joann Condon Shopper
Carolyn Pickles Shopper
Paloma Faith Sally
Montserrat Lombard Sally's Friend
Craig Fraser Debonair Gent
Amy Marston Classy Shopper #1
Gwendoline Christie Classy Shopper #2
Lucy Russell Classy Shopper #3
Maggie Steed LV Woman
Ben Cartwright Policeman #1
Gavin Rolph Policeman #2
Bobbi Bysouth LV Woman's reflection
Vitaliy Kravchenko Piotr
Ray Cooper Vladimir
Emil Hostina Serge
Igor Ingelsman Gregor
Sarah Groundwater Sales Girl
Dean Moen Smiling Policeman
Fraser Aitcheson Dancing Policeman
Michael Bean Dancing Policeman
Jase-Anthony Griffith Dancing Policeman
Scott McGillivray Dancing Policeman
John Stewart Dancing Policeman
John Stewart Dancing Policeman
Chris Cochrane Dancing Policeman
Pearce Visser Dancing Policeman
Patrick Bahrich Dancing Policeman
Georgina Hegedos Baboushka
Cassandra Sawtell Olga
Carrie Genzel Female Journalist
Mark Oliver Male Journalist
Peter Stormare The President
Donna Lysell President's wife
Michael Eklund Tony's Assistant
Rahul Singh Security Guard
Ryan Grantham Little Anton
D. Harlan Cutshall Charity Guest 1
Deni Delory Charity Guest 2
Lisa Bunting Charity Guest 3
Peter New Paramedic 1
Michael Jonsson Paramedic 2
Emma Karwandy Valentina's Daughter
Quinn Lord Young Boy
Bart Anderson Young Boy's Father
Erika Conway Young Boy's Mother
Wendy Carson Nun 1
Christine McMahon Nun 2

Technical Credits
Terry Gilliam Director,Art Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Mick Audsley Editor
Eric Batut Sound/Sound Designer
Mychael Danna Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Jeff Danna Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Brendan Ferguson Production Manager
Tim Fraser Sound/Sound Designer
Amy Gilliam Producer
Lee Grumett Asst. Director
Samuel Hadida Producer
Victor Hadida Executive Producer
Dan Hermansen Art Director
André Jacquemin Sound/Sound Designer
Anastasia Masaro Production Designer
Charles McKeown Screenwriter
Sarah Monzani Makeup
Nicola Pecorini Cinematographer
Monique Prudhomme Costumes/Costume Designer
Suzanne Reid Production Manager
Dennis Schnegg Art Director
Patrice Theroux Executive Producer
Dave Valleau Executive Producer
William Vince Producer
David Warren Art Director

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Scene Index

Go deep into Terry Gilliam's imaginative world!; Get a behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects and see Heath Ledger's interview and wardrobe test; Deleted scenes; Introduction & commentary by director Terry Gilliam; 5 Additional behind-the-scenes featurettes and more!

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