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Film: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
aka: The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus
"Can you put a price on your dreams?"
Tony

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 film directed and co-written by Terry Gilliam, starring Heath Ledger in his final film role (for real this time), along with Christopher Plummer as the eponymous Doctor.

Thousands of years ago, Doctor Parnassus made a wager with the Devil (Tom Waits) to see if he could save more souls through the Power of Imagination than the Devil could take through fear and corruption. In modern times, a now immortal Parnassus is owner of a traveling theater troupe, the Imaginarium. Its prized possession is a magic mirror that transports customers into a fantasy land shaped by the Doctor's imagination. Parnassus is proud and the Devil is persuasive, and the stakes keep getting higher until Parnussus bets the soul of his own daughter to be claimed on her 16th birthday. When the Devil comes to collect, the only hope to save Valentina lies in a mysterious rogue named Tony.

Also stars (deep breath) Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Gwendoline Christie, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.


This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Devil has never been this likable; there's also Tony.
    • It helps that he's played by Tom Waits and gets his own jazzy music whenever he's onscreen.
    • Hell, he tries to keep Valentina from willingly choosing Hell to spite her father, saying "[Dr. Parnassus] would never forgive me".
    • The above points are valid but it could still be just an act: when he he has finally gotten what he wanted (Tony dead), he leaves the Doctor to rot (see Bittersweet Ending).
  • The Alcoholic: Dr. Parnassus is perpetually blotto.
  • All-Star Cast: One of the most notable recent examples.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Averted, in that Valentina is the one who brings the subject up.
  • Asshole Victim: That drunk idiot from the first 10 minutes.
  • Author Avatar: Terry Gilliam reportedly based parts of the plot on his life, with Parnassus as his alter ego.
  • Award Bait Song: "We Are The Children Of The World" complete with Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Bad Samaritan: Tony.
  • Badass Mustache: Mr. Nick has one, which makes him look like John Waters.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tony.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Parnassus is abandoned to the wilds of the Imaginarium and Mr. Nick refuses to tell him where Valentina is. He manages to escape many years later and see that she's now happily married with her own family but decides not to make himself known to her and returns to his street puppetry.
  • Bow Ties Are Cool/Dastardly Dapper Derby/Waistcoat of Style: Mr. Nick.
  • The Cameo: Peter Stormare is the President! Look carefully.
  • Charity Motivation Song: Spoofed with "We Are the Children of the World".
  • Creative Closing Credits: The camera pushes into the paper puppet "set" at the end of the film.
  • Dark Messiah: Doctor Parnassus, a bitter alcoholic who puts unsuspecting people through a Journey to the Center of the Mind, which will end in either their enlightenment or their destruction.
  • Dawson Casting: Lily Cole was in her twenties during filming, but her character is 15 for most of it. She even spends some time masquerading as a 12 year old, which she says is obviously not true. It's inverted when Cole plays Valentina's mother as well as Valentina when she's older and has a child.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Explored a bit more thoroughly than they had originally intended.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Percy.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Parnassus makes bets with Mr. Nick, but the Devil (says he) enjoys the game more than the reward.
    • Tony accepted a loan from Russian mobsters, which ruined his reputation.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Anton at the film's beginning. Tony in the middle of the film. The ending makes it clear that the film's protagonist all along was Parnassus himself.
  • Devil but No God: Unless the Wild Mass Guessing that Percy is God (or at least an angel) is true.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Anton.
  • Eldritch Location: Inside the Imaginarium, which doubles as a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Devil himself openly expresses disgust at Tony, who sold third world children's organs on the black market.
  • Fake Brit: The overall cast is quite a diverse example, as it features an American (Johnny Depp), a Canadian (Christopher Plummer), an Australian (Heath Ledger) and an Irishman (Colin Farrell) all playing English characters. None of these characters seem to actually come from England, however.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The Godiva scene is inter-cut with shots of Anton in drag, in a fat suit.
    • Also, much of the conversation between Tony and Anton in the next scene is hard to focus on, as Anton is still wearing the outfit, sans wig.
    • The policemen in skirts and fishnets performing a song and dance number: even the Russian mobsters were freaked.
  • Fanservice:
    • Lily Cole. Holy crap. Don't believe me? Look at the poster at the top of the page. Especially when she's dressed as Eve.
    • Also, for the ladies, you get Heath Ledger, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp in white suits and ponytails swanning about seducing middle-aged women and young girls.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles
  • Friendly Enemy: The Devil.
  • The Gambling Addict: Certainly Doctor Parnassus; depending on your interpretation, also possibly Mr. Nick.
  • Godiva Hair: Valentina, in one scene.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mr. Nick has a standard issue evil cigarette holder.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Anton, from the moment Tony wakes up, starts treating him like a leper because of how much more talented he is with the crowd and Valentina's attraction to him. He is so jealous he acts like a rapist to get a client Tony had already convinced and nearly destroys the show and get them arrested for it, then uses The Reveal of Tony getting a loan from the Russians immediately as "ultimate proof" of how Tony "tainted" the show, even though Tony had no obligation helping them. Heck, he even tries stealing Tony's cell phone when it started ringing, for no good reason!
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Colin Farrell and Lily Cole
  • Hopeless Suitor: Anton, though not so hopeless.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Anton invokes this whilst traversing between the mirror and the real world, but retains some Morphic Resonance with his suit.
  • Identical Grandson: Lily Cole plays both Valentina and Valentina's mother.
  • Infant Immortality: Played with in the deleted sequence where the boy who wandered into the mirror has to make a choice of either going into Mr. Nick's shooting gallery or the mountain of pianos which shows millions of children being instructed to play.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Devil (or is he?), but not Tony (or is he?).
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind
  • Killed Off for Real: Tony, killed off by some very real figments of his imagination.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Mr. Nick always wears the same three-piece suit, overcoat, and bowler hat, even in a flashback taking place a thousand or more years in the past.
  • Little People Are Surreal: This seems to be the main reason for Percy's existence.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Imaginarium.
  • Louis Cypher: Mr. Nick.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Percy, what would I do without you?"
  • Mind Screw: If you don't read the summary, this movie will pass right over your head.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Valentina. She plays the Rom Girl, the Magician's Assistant, the Wizard's Daughter who wants to run away... any of these workin' for ya?
  • Name's Kind-Of The Same: Anthony and Anton
  • Nice Hat: Mr. Nick likes to wear bowler hats from time to time.
  • The Nth Doctor: After Heath Ledger's death, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were hired to replace him with the explanation that Tony can change shape when traveling beyond the mirror.
  • Oh Crap: Tony, just before he's hanged, when he realizes that Dr. Parnassus has his real flute (which he used as a breathing apparatus to save himself).
  • The Other Marty: Justified. See above.
  • Overly Long Name: Percival St. Antoine della Touraine et Sansepolcro da Piemonte the Third.
  • Reality Subtext
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The bit where Tony physically changes as he enters the Imaginarium was thought up a while after Heath died. Although in the DVD commentary, Terry Gilliam claims that the plot of the movie - apart from this device - was not changed at all. They just gave Heath Ledger's lines to the Other Tonies.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Parnassus himself is over one thousand.
  • Red Herring: The writing on Tony's forehead seems like it's going to come in handy during the ending; Mr Nick is even willing to let Valentina go free if Parnassus explains the symbols' meaning to him. The only purpose they serve in the story, though, is letting the mobsters recognize Tony in his Jude Law incarnation.
  • The Reveal: Tony is the head and founder of a global children's charity who sells their organs on the black market.
  • Romantic False Lead
  • Rule of Three: According to Doctor Parnassus, there are three cardinal rules. The first is, "There is no such thing as Black Magic, only cheap tricks." He can't remember what the other two are, though.
  • Running Gag:
    Dr. Parnassus: What would I do without you Percy?
    Percy: Get a midget.
  • Scenery Gorn: When Mr. Nick manipulates the Imaginarium, the landscape is always barren, foreboding and, at times, downright disturbing.
  • Scenery Porn: The Movie.
  • Shout-Out: There are a lot of references to Egyptian culture within the film, most likely reflecting upon the theme of death throughout the movie. Also, in the mall, Valentina is sitting on a clam shell, naked, with a long wig to cover herself.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Tony, though there are only four members in the first place.
  • Stylistic Suck: Parnassus and Co. are terrible showmen.
  • Take That:
    • Essentially the purpose of the little boy entering the Imaginarium. Gilliam is annoyed by how most games are about destroying things in some fashion, and the player isn't really creating anything.
    • Tony's self-deluding lies are based on Gilliam's perception of Tony Blair. Early in the film, he's also called George.
  • Tarot Motifs: Doctor Parnassus foretells Tony's appearance by drawing "The Hanged Man" from his tarot deck.
    • Tarot Trouble: The doctor's tarot reading also includes the Devil (obviously Mr. Nick), the Wheel of Fortune (his chancy bet with the devil), and the King of Cups (a wise man who cannot be trusted).
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Dr. Parnassus follows a religious doctrine that more or less references this. Perhaps as a Shout-Out, the monastery where he was taught this doctrine looks like someone crossed a Buddhist temple with the Discworld. In the DVD commentary, Gilliam says it was Judaism-meets-Buddhism.
  • Throw It In:
    • According to director Gilliam, Heath Ledger frequently went off-script, which inspired Andrew Garfield to do the same.
    • Apparently Verne Troyer came up with all the talk about midgets by himself. Considering his stature, it was considered okay for him to say it.
  • Trailers Always Lie: All the plot descriptions of this movie elsewhere sound as if Tony is The Atoner who finds redemption after going on a Journey to the Center of the Mind, which isn't quite true.
  • Trickster Archetype: Mr. Nick and Tony.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Dr. Parnassus, especially regarding his wife and his daughter. Tony very much is this when they go into his imagination.
  • Victory Is Boring: Mr. Nick discovers that he enjoys the game more than victory.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: In Tony's dream-world, the wheelchair-bound President of the Universe tells him "Well done, Tony!" Also inverted, in that Anton longs for Parnassus' approval... but the old man prefers Tony.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Parnassus realizes this when his immortality contract only stated eternal life, not eternal youth. There was a similar stipulation in another Gilliam film with Heath Ledger in it, The Brothers Grimm.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Mr. Nick does something like this to the monks while making a deal for Dr. Parnassus.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real

ImaginaerumFantasy FilmsInside Story
UpFilm Brain ListFantastic Mr. Fox
I Love You ManFilms of 2005 - 2009 The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle

alternative title(s): The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus; The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus
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