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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law
ions Gate Home Entertainment UK
RRP: £24.99
LGB 94208
Certificate: 12
Available 29 March 2010

The immortal Doctor Parnassus holds the key to the Imaginarium, a wonderful place hidden in a ‘pop up’ travelling theatre, where people can explore the very depths of their imagination. But the Doctor has more hidden depths than his friends in the theatre troupe are aware of and his immortality has come at a price - the soul of his daughter Valentina. Unless Parnassus and Tony, the mysterious amnesiac whom he befriends can coax a few more souls to lose themselves in the Imaginarium, Valentina will become the prize in a deal that Parnassus has made with the Devil himself, Mr Nick...

The story at the heart of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus is hardly the most original. Man does a deal with the devil for his first born, but tries to outwit the devil when it's time to pay up. Thankfully this movie is much, much more than this and, in true Terry Gilliam style, uses this simple premise to springboard off into the unknown.

This will not be an easy movie to digest for the average modern cinema audience. Like Gilliam's previous movies, in particular Tideland, Gilliam experiments with the art of cinema, refusing to spoon feed his audience. It's a bold move and one that pays off, but I can't help thinking that a lot of people will come away totally missing the point - indeed, only wanting to see it because it was Heath Ledger's last movie. But equally, a lot of people will take much away from the experience.

Even in his direction Gilliam doesn't focus the camera where he wants the viewer to look - his framing too allows you to soak up an entire scene without him saying: "Look, concentrate here. This information will be important later". Sadly, there are too few directors working in the industry that are as visionary and as giving to their audience as Gilliam is.

It was a shame that amongst the extras there was no mention of how different the movie would have been if Ledger had finished it. Gilliam does mention that the script was altered, but not how. In the finished film Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law play Ledger's character Tony, at different points when he leaves our world behind and steps inside Dr Parnassus's Imaginarium. The end result works well, but it would have been interesting to learn what Gilliam originally had in mind.

Extras include optional movie introduction by Terry Gilliam (2 min, 56 sec); Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Gilliam (4 min, 24 sec - single deleted scene); Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test with optional commentary with Gilliam (2 min, 02 sec); Building the Monastery (7 min, 15 sec look at the various model and CG elements that went into creating the monastery); Behind the Mirror (3 min, 27 sec); UK Premiere Featurette (12 min, 32 sec); Heath Ledger & Friends (5 min, 45 sec); Heath Ledger Interview (3 min, 08 sec segments of a November 2007 radio interview); The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam (6 min, 32 sec); "The Drink" Multi-Angle Feature (2 min, 12 sec); and audio commentary with Gilliam.

Highlights of the commentary include Gilliam explaining why Ledger's accent keeps changing throughout the film; his issues with the insurance company after Ledger's death; and explaining the significance of the pipe that Tony character swallows.

Take a trip into the mind of Gilliam - you won't come away disappointed.


Darren Rea

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