The best form of parody is when you don’t need to know the source to appreciate the joke, although when you do, the laughs are even richer. So it is with the brilliant short films of Documentary Now! in its fourth (they call it 53rd) season, taking the notion of a mock documentary to a sublimely silly new level. How Helen Mirren keeps a straight face introducing these send-ups remains a marvel.

The elaborate two-part opener, “Soldier of Illusion,” spoofs Werner Herzog’s 1982 Burden of Dreams, which followed the driven filmmaker through the grueling production of his epic Fitzcarraldo in Peru. In this wacky version, written by John Mulaney, a very game Alexander Skarsgård embodies the caricature of a pretentiously visionary director toiling in the remote Ular mountains of Russia to depict the lives of an indigenous tribe when he also accepts an assignment to direct the pilot of a dim-witted CBS sitcom, Bachelor Nanny.

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