This evening I was finally able to indulge in a film that represents the ultimate movie-going experience for me. I am very much a lover of fiction, and the farther the journey I can take, the more I enjoy it. It is with this in mind that I offer my review of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
It seems to me that this is a film which many, many people heard about (having the distinction of being the film which Heath Ledger was shooting before he died) but not many people have seen. In the major theater chains in my area, the film not only didn’t garner the limited Christmas release, but when it did arrive in late January it stayed for perhaps a week or maybe two before being replaced by some assuredly trivial piece of tripe. (Not that I’m bitter.) But thankfully the folks at the Art Theatre in Champaign had the good taste to show the film this weekend, which was especially wonderful because a home viewing simply doesn’t do justice to this visual spectacle.
I will go on record as stating that I have long been a fan of Terry Gilliam, primarily through my love of Monty Python. It’s true, his perspective on life does take just a bit of getting used to, and it’s also true that his particular style of storytelling is not the most popular or widely accepted here in the US. However, if you find yourself unfamiliar with Mr. Gilliam, Imaginarium is quite possibly a rather “safe” movie with which to start. Your mind will be stretched, no doubt, but not snapped. And although I did wonder at one point what someone like Tim Burton might have done with this movie, I am overall absolutely certain that Mr. Gilliam is the only one who could have told this tale.
As in all of my reviews, I will not delve too deeply into the plot; I leave such things to Wikipedia articles and themoviespoiler.com if you truly wish to have the storyline pieces told to you. However, I will say that I felt truly immersed in the sideshow experience from beginning to end. I was as captivated watching the film as the audience members on the screen were entranced by the carnival. There’s something about the way this story was told that gave me permission to simply sit in wonder and take in the view. This is why I go to the movies.
Visually, this movie was nothing short of stunning. Musically, the ambience was well-created and easily sustained. And the casting was truly brilliant. Certainly I wish Heath Ledger had lived long enough to complete the film himself, but this movie actually provided the unique opportunity to salvage a tragedy and still produce something incredible. I daresay that no other movie could have managed this task, and this is a tribute to everyone who worked on the project.
Suffice to say, if you’ve heard that Imaginarium was just a weird movie or something that wasn’t easily understood, or if you passed on it for whatever reason, I urge you to reconsider and give it a try. I myself look forward to repeat viewings of what is sure to become one of my all-time favorite movies.