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The Cinema of Terry GilliamIt's a Mad World$
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Jeff Birkenstein, Anna Froula, and Karen Randell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165358

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165358.001.0001

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The Fissure King

The Fissure King

Terry Gilliam’s Psychotic Fantasy Worlds

(p.79) Chapter Six The Fissure King
The Cinema of Terry Gilliam

Jacqueline Furby

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991), and its “central concern with fantasy storytelling and the mental condition of psychosis”, to explore Gilliam's construction of narrative around the character Parry as he comes to terms with the traumatic loss of his wife. The Fisher King tells the story of four people—Jack, Parry, Anne, and Lydia—all of whom are trapped in their unhappy lives, and see fantasy as both an escape and as a redemptive healing space. In the case of Parry, a medieval professor, he retreated into an alternative medieval reality in order to escape the emotional pain involved in acknowledging and remembering his wife's death. The historical past becomes his defence mechanism with which to disavow his personal history. His story shows the power of fantasy and myth to act as a precipitate of and a window through which to view the struggles of the individual.

Keywords:   The Fisher King, fantasy, psychosis, Parry, alternative reality, defence mechanism, myth

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