The Fisher King follows NYC disc-jockey Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) and homeless maniac Parry (Robin Williams as they embark on a “quest” for a Holy Grail and redemption after they both experience their own individual tragedies. Jack is an arrogant and egotistical man who loses his job as well as his reputation after he inadvertently encouraged an unstable radio-caller to murder groups of innocent people with a pump action shotgun. After a couple of years following the incident, Jack is a broke video-store owner close to being beaten to death by a group of thugs under a bridge, only to be saved by the unhinged DIY knight, Parry, who is tormented by visions of a terrifying Red Knight figure and the memory of his dead wife. In return for his saviour, Jack is asked to get the Holy Grail for Parry as well as help him win over the love of a dork-ish office-worker, Lydia (Amanda Plummer).
At a first glance, The Fisher King seems to be a fairly linear story, if perhaps a little strange. Which it is. What more would you expect from director, Terry Gilliam, who has previously directed Time Bandits, Brazil and is also a member of Monty Python?
But in actual fact, The Fisher King is so much more. It’s filled with so many brilliant ideas and themes that can still resonate with audiences today, despite restricting itself to the romantic melodrama genre; a genre which Terry Gilliam is not normally associated with. At the time of its initial release, The Fisher King received mostly positive critical reviews and it was nominated for five Oscars- even won one (Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes Ruehl as Anne, Jack’s wife) but since then it seems most people have forgotten about it.
To me, I find it very saddening when I ask someone whether they have heard of The Fisher King and nobody says that they have. Its personally my favourite Gilliam film and Robin Williams gives possibly his most powerful and hilarious performance ever; his death now heightening some of the darker themes found in the film. The film also raises issues of PTSD, trauma, homelessness, freedom, sin and even discussing philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas set against the dreamlike Manhattan setting Gilliam manages to make fantastical. It’s the perfect mix of a bittersweet comedy and a deeply moving (at times heart-breaking) film.
I would recommend this film to audiences all audiences, especially those who are fans of Terry Gilliam and Robin Williams work. It’s a severely underrated title.
The Fisher King is being re-released on Blu-ray on the 23rd June thanks to The Criterion Collection and comes with the following director-approved extras: New, restored 2K digital transfer with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, Audio commentary featuring Gilliam, New interviews with Gilliam, producer Lynda Obst, screenwriter Richard La Gravenese, and actors Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl, New interviews with artists Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds on the creation of the film’s Red Knight, Interview from 2006 with actor Robin Williams, New video essay featuring Bridges’s on-set photographs, Deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Gilliam, Costume tests and Trailers. Don’t miss out!