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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

Cult Corner IX | The Fisher King

May 21, 2016
Cult Corner is a fortnightly film review series focused on reviewing everything from the cult to the classic. In the series’ ninth instalment, Gemma Pecorini Goodall reviews the iconic 1991 film The Fisher King.

If there is one director I think deserves more love it is Terry Gilliam. One sixth of the iconic Monty Python comedy troupe, Gilliam’s directorial style is unique and refreshing. Where some of his films (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil) are considered cult classics, I think that, as a director, Gilliam has earned himself title of cult classic himself. I’d argue that all his films are worthy of cult ranking and this will probably not be the last time I write about Gilliam for Cult Corner.

The Fisher King tracks the life of Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a radio presenter who becomes suicidal after her inadvertently prompts a caller to commit a mass murder-suicide in New York. After having hit rock-bottom, Jack is attacked by a group of thugs and is saved by Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless man whose delusions lead him to believe he is on a quest to find the holy grail. Parry manages to convince Jack to help him who quickly begins to feel responsible for his homeless saviour. Jack discovers that Parry used to be a teacher and that he slipped into his delusions and mental instability after witnessing his wife’s death. Jack sets out to help Parry find love again while indulging his fantasies.

fisher king article image

The Fisher King has everything fans love of Gilliam’s work. The screenplay is compelling and sentimental with strong elements of dark humour and fantasy. Both Bridges’ and Williams’ performances are superb, the actors’ chemistry strongly driving the kooky plot forward. Both actors (who rank among my favourites) give career defining performances which are often overlooked by critics and film professionals. The film is also visually stunning, cinematographer Roger Pratt’s cinematography encapsulating the characters and sets in stunning lighting and using Gilliam’s famous Dutch angles.

However, the film’s most incredible feat is its treatment of mental health. Although the film’s events are embedded in the protagonists’ mutual mental and emotional instability, it deals with the topic of mental health without relying on it to drive the plot forward. The characters’ weaknesses are what makes them strong and individual and their conquests aren’t made despite the issues they face.

Although many may find the film to be disorganised and overly-eccentric, I find that it is this compelling structure which manages to mirror the mental state of the film’s protagonists as well as create a unique and heart-warming filmic landscape.

Fisher King trailer

Visit smithsmagazine.co.uk to read instalments  I,II,IIIIVV, VI, VII and VIII.