The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Film, Fantasy
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
0 Love It
Save it
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Read our interview with Gilliam here

There can’t have been a movie-lover on the planet who didn’t want ‘… Doctor Parnassus’ to be great, a triumphant comeback for a troubled director after his leading man passed away during production. Terry Gilliam’s struggle to bring Heath Ledger’s last performance to the screen was laudable: he rallied a crack crew of A-listers (including Johnny Depp and Jude Law) to essay enigmatic variations on their fallen comrade, all the while struggling with his own grief at the loss of a friend.But there’s no escaping the fact that the completed film, though lovingly made, is something of a mess. Set in a stark contemporary London, it’s a patronising elegy for the death of the public imagination, as personified by Christopher Plummer’s Parnassus, a travelling teller of tall tales whose audience is progressively shrinking.

Ledger excels as snake-tongued amnesiac Tony Liar, who hops aboard the ramshackle Imaginarium and begins to charm punters with his raffish air of money-grubbing mischief. But his performance – the film’s trump card – is repeatedly elbowed out by a centuries-spanning duel between Parnassus  and Tom Waits’s cigar-chomping  Satan, told in garish CG flashbacks.
It’s telling that Parnassus, an  unsubtle proxy for the director, never recognises his own culpability as his audience’s interest dwindles: it’s modern man’s refusal to open his mind, not the artist’s unwillingness to connect, that dooms the Imaginarium. It’s unlikely Gilliam’s own, undeniably brilliant career will be revitalised by this rambling, undisciplined and indulgent piece of work.

Read our interview with Gilliam here

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday October 16 2009
Duration: 123 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriter: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Christopher Plummer
Jude Law
Colin Farrell
Lily Cole
Johnny Depp
Heath Ledger

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

The comments on this film rather bear out Terry Gilliam's premise ... that the public imagination is either moribund or dead (and presumably this is why Hollywood churns out the sort of pap they do). If you want to have your mind challenged, and experience some amazing sets, then fine - but if you're like one of the drunken audience in the film, you're wasting your time. I loved, it and think it's a fitting tribute to Heath Ledger. But your normal sort of film for your average film-goer, it ain't.


I wanted to like this film.A friend recommended it to me and I do like terry gilliam.Despite some good performances and some imppressive visuals I was disappointed.It dragged a bit especially in the first half although it did perk up.I think the diection was a bit slack.


A poorly thought-out, thoroughly pretentious script that is intellectually and technically insubstantial. Despite boasting stunning CGI and a number of exceptional performances, one can't help but feel the film wasn't made based on its own merits... rather this film was dragged through production, then distribution based on the selling power of the stars attached to it.

Johnny Alexander

At its best, this film is boring. At its worst, it is so bad it's depressing. For a film supposed to be about the human imagination, the only thing I was left wondering was how Gilliam managed to raise the money for the (dreadful) script. Either Gilliam is a great salesman or he hit on the world's most gullible producer. Awful. I want my £9.50 back.

Go watch it!

The end does get a little confusing, and doesn't tie up quite as well as other Gilliam films - but aside from this it is excellent. If you expect a straight forward storyline which you will be able to relate to - this is not the film for you; if on the other hand you want to be stunned by amazing visual ideas and you are happy to let your mind work overtime to chanllenge itself on the concept of reality, then you must see this film. Good performances all round, and except for the very end it is hard to imagine that this would have worked much differently with Heath Ledger playing Tony throughout. The real star in my mind though, is Lily Cole, who proves to be as skilled and genuine an actress as her co-stars, and definitely one to look out for in the future.


If you're a Terry Gilliam fan then go. I did and I was very happy with what I saw. There were some problems with the plot that could have been so easily fixed, so a bit frustrating, but overall a really lovely movie.


This film MUST be the MOST DISAPPOINTING and BORING film I ever watched, visually looks good, story-wise not good at all. Not even worth watching it on DVD! Don't waste your money.


I really enjoyed the film. The plot was at times hard to follow but the cinematography was good and the premise behind the film had a ring of truth to it. The actors also did an excellent job.