The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

It was the morning of January 22nd 2008 when I woke up and looked outside my window to see it snowing. I stepped outside to view the snow having not seen it for quite some time. Returning inside I sat down and started to eat breakfast while watching BBC News as I did every morning. I had missed the opening headlines so I watched each report to see what was happening in the world that day, a report came on and in the background was a Picture of Heath Ledger with the years 1979 – 2008 on it and the newsman reporting Heath’s death with his first words being ‘how fate can sometimes be cruel’. I was totally shocked. The film industry had lost one of it’s great rising stars. Two years and three weeks later it’s snowing here again and I go to view Heath’s last movie.

There’s a great line in the movie that says “nothing is Permanent, not even death” as the character of Tony discusses all the beautiful, wonderful people who died too young but will be forever remembered for their beauty since they will never grow old, get fat. It seems like an intentional line as a tribute to Heath but Gilliam has said that it was already part of the movie’s script before anything had happened.

At the time of the Heath’s death he had not yet finished filming all of his scenes but he had completed the scenes that were filmed in the world outside the mirror. At the time of Heaths death Gilliam thought the film was finished but this being the last great work of a great actor there was an effort to complete it. With the first Phone call to Depp Gilliam was able to stop the money slipping away and complete this Film. Thanks to the help of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell they completed Heath’s last work and donated their earnings to Heath’s daughter. These three fine actors take the mantle of the Character of Tony at the point when he walks through the mirror. Since the mind of Doctor Parnassus represents fantasy and desire Tony’s appearance changes too. This wasn’t the original idea of course but it was rewritten this way and fits perfectly with what was filmed before.

I first saw the poster for the movie a few months back at a subway station, it was quite large, featuring all the actors who portray Tony and at the front stood Johnny Depp. Then I noticed that it wasn’t Depp but Heath. The resemblance between the two men was very alike in the poster. The lines blurred even more for me when before Tony first enters the mirror he is wearing a mask and talking in a very bravado way, I had thought that this might actually be Johnny Depp but in fact it was Heath Ledger doing Depp, something which Terry Gilliam even reflected on with Heath after filming the scene. What’s more when Tony walks through the mirror for the first time I thought we were still viewing Ledger but in fact it’s Depp at this point, the characteristics of the actors and physical resemblance in this film is indistinguishable as if it were almost intentional like the actors had discussed this scene. But we know this not to be true. This is a case of beautiful acting that resonates to something deeper beyond our grasp. I can’t help but think again that if the role of “The Joker” might ever be recast in the next Batman film that Johnny Depp might be the man, the only man who could make the character his own while at the same time not lose what Heath created. Jude Law and Colin Farrell do such great justice to the part also, particularly Farrell who had to carry the film to it’s final conclusion, he did an amazing job, one of his best performances.

I watched this film in Tokyo. After the screening I overheard girls talking about how great Gilliam was. For a film that features four handsome and very popular actors I think that’s saying something. Gilliam has captured people’s imaginations with his own and that in itself is a beautiful thing to behold.

 Favorite Quote: “Nothing is permanent, not even death.” – Tony

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