Arts & Entertainment

Imaginarium confuses with all-star cast, “trippy” plot

While I am watching a movie, I try to picture the specific demographic toward which that film is aimed.  The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, gave me quite a challenge in this endeavor.  Marketed as a fantasy film, loaded with bright colors and attractive characters, it seemed like a children’s film at first glance of the trailer.  The cast drew me in, as it included Heath Ledger in his final performance amidst a slew of other recognizable faces.  As I entered the theater and pondered the film’s PG-13 rating (which can mean a number of different things these days), I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I was both amazed at and disappointed by the movie by the time it finished, and I will explain why.

Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is an immortal, mystical, traveling performer who sets up carnival shows along with his daughter Valentina, his geeky assistant Anton, and his midget sidekick Percy.  Dr. Parnassus, unbeknownst to all but Percy, made a deal years before with Mr. Nick (the devil) that involved giving away his daughter’s soul when she turns sixteen, which is mere days from where the story begins.  The carnival show invites viewers to take a trip through a magical mirror and into the “imaginarium” – a fantasy world inside the mind of Dr. Parnassus that allows people to live out their biggest dreams.  While inside, people are given a choice to surrender their souls either to purity or to greed.   Dr. Parnassus makes a last-minute deal with Mr. Nick to spare his daughter, and Mr. Nick agrees to let her stay if the doctor can produce five pure souls by the time her birthday ends.

The group is going through hard times financially, as their old-fashioned setup does not attract many paying customers.  Just when they feel like giving up, however, a stranger in need arrives on the scene.  Tony (Heath Ledger) is a businessman who was left to die.  He has no memory of where he came from, what his full name is, or what he has done in his life.  When his life is saved, he offers to help the troupe make more money as repayment for their good deed.

The rest of the plot is almost too trippy to be described.  It follows the group as they attempt to stay alive, both physically and spiritually, and as they grow closer in their relationships with one another.  The story did not leave me wanting more – that is for sure.  The film did not leave me thinking about any deep spiritual truths, and to be honest, it seemed almost interminable.  Well-written dialogue backed by superb performances by lead cast members kept me in my seat, and I was glad to be able to see Ledger’s final act (which undoubtedly was/is the movie’s biggest draw).  I would not recommend the film to kids, due to its dark themes, nor would I recommend it for anyone who prefers cohesive, sensible motion pictures.  It was interesting, but I would not want to watch it again.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Lydia Carmany is a contribution writer to The Aviso.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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