In modern day London, a travelling circus called The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus invites people to enter a mirror whereby they are transported into their inner dream lives. The Imaginarium is made up of the guru Parnassus himself (Christopher Plummer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) and a young man named Anton (Andrew Garfield). Parnassus is regularly taunted by a Lucifer-like character who calls himself Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) and it is revealed that Parnassus has made a wager with him. As the company is struggling to find an audience, they discover a man named Tony (Heath Ledger) who is being hanged under a bridge. They rescue him and for saving his life Tony helps the company find an audience.
Though thematically it is a failure, the film is still an exciting visual experience due to some really magical sets, costumes and art direction. The imagined world behind the mirror is a real sight to behold on the big screen. A moment where a giant head of a bobby officer bursts from the ground echoes the cartoons from Monty Python, along with the chorus-line of policemen.
Ledger's role as Tony only comes across as someone interesting at the end of the movie - sadly we lost Heath Ledger during the making of this - but this fact works well for the movie that his role 'through the looking glass' is played out by three other actors - Depp has the briefest part and shines in a cameo. Colin Farrell looks wide eyed and lost and Jude La; knowing and venal - all give the character depth. Tom Waits basically plays himself as Mr. Nick with raspy voice as the devil tempting Christopher Plummers Good (and as we see in a flashback - Budda like) character. Lily Cole is oddly pythonesque as Valentina with her elfin face and Andrew Garfield as Anton is the real star - overshadowed by Heath Ledger's passing during the making of the movie.
Don't go for the story but for the steampunk visuals of this remarkable film.