Everything I’ve seen about Heath Ledger’s final film has told me two things: 1) It’s Heath Ledger’s final film (he died half-way through production, to be variously replaced throughout the film by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel and Jude Law) and 2) It’s utterly rubbish.
From watching the film myself today, I’ve discovered three things:
1) It’s almost the ultimate Terry Gilliam movie, combining the tangible, off-kilter world of a only-slightly-stylised reality with the final-given-enough-money beauty of the CGI creating the heavily surrealist world beyond the mirror that take people inside their own minds. Where his previous films have failed for me has been the difficulty in realising this clash of the real and the fantastical, but Parnassus does it almost perfectly.
2) The three actors who came in to finish the film, playing 3 versions of Ledger’s Tony who appear through the mirror did a great job. Admittedly, knowing the story behind the film made me almost predisposed to look on them favourably: all three stepped in as friends of Ledger’s to offer their services, all three fitted the film in around their other filming commitments and all three donated their fees to Ledger’s young daughter. But all three of them also hit just the right balance of the surrealist elements of a shape-shifting lead character by keeping just the right amount of Ledger’s original performance while infusing it with a spirit and attitude of their own. It never feels like 3 people pretending to be Heath Ledger, which would have been dreadful.
3) I really, really, really liked it.
So I may well be the odd one out in all of this, but frankly, who cares? I unashamedly love this movie. I love all that it stands for, I love all that it means, I love all that it’s been through and I love the end product more than any other Gilliam film I’ve seen before.
As a side note, K’s come back up to Liverpool with me today and we saw Parnassus at FACT, an amazing Liverpool cinema and gallery space which impresses me more and more every time I go. Today’s screening was in a small-ish box room with the audience all seated on 2-person sofas; a brand new experience for me, but a great one. There should be a flickhouse like this in every city.