The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – A Review

Filled with fantasy and magical illusions, ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ transports you to an alternate universe. Directed by Terry Gillian, this is one of the last films to feature the late Heath Leger, whose performance landed this film at the Cannes Film Festival.

This movie is about Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his travelling theatre troupe consisting of his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy the dwarf(Verne Troyer). They go around performing and drawing individuals to enter a certain mirror in order to achieve fulfilment in their lives. As an individual enters the magical mirror, his imagination comes alive and all his deepest desires appear before his eyes. But the mirror’s universe is divided into two worlds, one offering enlightenment and one that is dark, owned by the devil.

Hundreds of years earlier, Dr. Parnassus made a deal with the devil, which he eventually won and became immortal. But this deal came with a twist, Dr Parnassus would have to give up his child to the devil when the child turned sixteen. Parnassus, who never would have imagined ever fathering a child accepted the deal, much to his regret later on. His daughter Valentina was to turn sixteen in a matter of days. So Parnassus made another deal with the devil which was that Valentina would stay with whoever won five souls in the mirror first.

Meanwhile, Tony (Heath Leger), who had been hanged, is saved by the troupe on a bridge and joins the troupe. Parnassus had read about this in his tarot cards, the ‘hang man’ and interprets this as good fortune for the theatre company. Tony’s unique charm and wit woos crowds of people to watch their shows, thus minting money. He suggests various ideas to improve the theatre, which Parnassus readily agrees with.

Soon, the theatre show is transformed into a modernistic and advanced stage. With the new look and charm, Parnassus manages to win four souls. Whenever a lady would enter, she would be overcome with joy on experiencing such wonder. Tony, who convinces each woman, changes character( transforming into Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) every time he walks in reflecting each woman’s mind. But Parnassus is eventually tied with the devil, who also wins four souls.

In a flurry of events, Valentina is thrown into the mirror and Tony rushes in to save her. But his flawed character is revealed inside by Anton and things take a terrible turn when Valentina is lost in the mirror. A heart broken Parnassus is given yet another wager by the devil to trade Tony’s soul in exchange for Valentina’s. After being tricked by Parnassus, Tony dies at the gallows, thus representing the ‘hang man’.

But the Devil never really knew where Valentina was and was just having his bit of fun. Depressed, Parnassus searches for Valentina in vain and eventually lands up in the real world. There, he sees Valentina happily married to Anton with a daughter of her own. Seeing his daughter’s dreams fulfilled makes Parnassus overjoyed and he goes back to presenting puppet shows with his assistant Percy to children, never acknowledging the devil again.

This film is filled with enchanting twists that will keep you glued to the screen throughout. With its unique cast and surreal effects, it is not to be missed!

Shirin Khara