THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS
Gambling with the Devil
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Starring: Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp,
Jude Law, Colin Farrell,
Andrew Garfield, Christopher
Plummer, Tom Waits, Lily Cole,
and Verne Troyer
Runtime: 122 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Terry Gilliam
Executive Producer: Dave Valleau and Victor Hadida
Producer: Terry Gilliam, William Vince,
Amy Gilliam, and Samuel Hadida
Writer: Terry Gilliam and Charles
Address Comments To:Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcia Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Fax: (212) 833-8844
Web Page: www.sonyclassics.com
The story opens in modern London with four horses drawing an ancient carnival cart. The cart sets up as “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” in front of a cathedral facing a rowdy and noisy bar. Dr. Parnassus comes out on a plastic cube pretending as if he’s levitating and looking like an Eastern mystic holding a lotus blossom. Several couples from the nightclub approach the Imaginarium. One girl enters the full-sized mirror on the stage and finds herself in a gigantic imaginary world. Evidently, everyone who goes through the mirror experiences their own imagination. Two people should not go through the mirror at the same time, because one person’s imagination will dominate the other’s.
When the girl disappears, the crowd gets angry. So, the Imaginarium takes off to a secluded rundown area near the Thames Rivers. There, it’s revealed that Dr. Parnassus is centuries old. He had a bet with Nick the Devil, and the Devil granted him immortality if he would give the Devil his first-born child when the child was 16. Now, the doctor’s daughter is about to turn 16 in three days.
While reading some Tarot Cards, Parnassus comes upon the Hanging Man card just as Percy, his midget sidekick, sees a man hanging from a bridge. Valentina the daughter, Anton the assistant, and Percy save the hanging man, whose name is Tony. Tony turns out to be a charity fundraiser who has bilked a lot of people. He improves the look of the Imaginarium, however, and makes it more successful. Every time he goes into the Imaginarium, he turns into another person.
Always appreciating a good wager, Nick tells Parnassus that, if he can win five souls before Nick does, he can keep his daughter. Thus, the wager is engaged. Just when it looks like Parnassus is about to win the wager, Nick the Devil has a few tricks up his sleeve.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS is a fantastic movie in every way. The sets, the settings, the acting, the dialogue are endlessly captivating. It is also fascinating in the sense that it deals with imagination and the pitfalls of imagination. Sadly, the movie seems to imply that we’re all trapped in purgatory making wagers with the Devil. There are a couple of profane references to Jesus, a street sign that looks like a cross, a cathedral, and Parnassus begging to move beyond choice, but in this dark world, there never is a glimpse of the truth that will set these people free.
Parnassus’ wager with the Devil is shown to have occurred when he was a Tibetan monk telling the story of the world. This, of course, is the ultimate nominalism, which says that the world we live in is just the story that someone somewhere is telling.
At some point, it appears as if the Devil renounces occultism, and Parnassus says that he wants to get away from wagers, bets, and choice. But, the only world the movie shows viewers is endless cycles of losing a bet with the Devil.
Tony is hanged twice by the neck. He is beaten up several times. Valentina is beaten up. Riots occur. And, people go through the door to Hell complete with flames.
Besides plenty of foul language, this movie contains ugly images of death and dying, and some fantastic surreal, supposedly beautiful images too. The entire movie seems like a bad LSD trip, or like a superficial re-imagining of Dante’s INFERNO.
Some people will love this movie and try to figure it out. Most people won’t bother.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS is a fantastic movie. The sets, the settings, the acting, the dialogue are endlessly captivating. It is also fascinating in the sense that it deals with imagination and the pitfalls of imagination. Sadly, the movie seems to imply that everyone is trapped in purgatory making wagers with the Devil. Besides plenty of foul language and violence, this movie contains ugly images, and some fantastic surreal, supposedly beautiful images too. The entire movie seems like a superficial re-imagining of Dante’s INFERNO.