Despite being Heath Ledger's final film before his untimely death, The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus failed to make an impact on the global box-office. Thus, it remains to be seen whether it can gain popularity now it is out on DVD.
Many centuries ago, immortal soothsayer Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) bargained with the devil (Tom Waits) and now Old Nick has come to collect the soul of Parnassus' teenage daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), who works on a travelling circus fronted by the doctor and assistants Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer).
To keep the devil at bay, Parnassus must win the souls of five strangers by inviting them through his magic mirror, into a world beyond their wildest imagination. Suicidal Tony (Heath Ledger) could be the first loner through the looking-glass but where will the soothsayer find the others or will he have to sacrifice the person he holds most dear?
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is every bit as disjointed and befuddling as it is visually arresting and fanciful. With thoughts of Ledger lingering uneasily in the mind, Terry Gilliam's film is a strangely voyeuristic experience that starts with a chill when we see his character hanging from a noose beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London. In truth, the Oscar-winning actor is a supporting player in this haphazard tale. Plummer, Garfield and Cole are centre stage, the latter impressing as a child doomed to suffer the sins of her father.
Johnny Depp and Jude Law barely have any screen time as stand-ins for Ledger. Colin Farrell fares slightly better and captures the mannerisms and vocal patterns of his predecessor.
Animated sequences and production design are top notch, but the two-hour running time tests our patience. We want so much to be lost in Gilliam's waking dream, but the tragic nightmare behind every frame haunts us.
DVD extras include director commentary, introduction by director Terry Gilliam, Heath Ledger & Friends featurette, Heath Ledger interview, Heath Ledger wardrobe test with optional director commentary, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, The Imaginarium Of Terry Gilliam featurette, Building The Monastery featurette, Behind The Mirror featurette, and UK premiere featurette.
- Out now at city stores from Dh115