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Headscratchers: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Was the man Parnassus saw having lunch with the adult Valentina, Anton? If not, that was a pretty cruel ending for him.
    • Yes.
  • Was Tony really written as the villain when the script was first made? Ledger!Tony was, in every scene he was involved in outside of the imaginarium (and a few of them when he was in it), portrayed as a likable character even to the point of knowingly and willingly risking his own soul for Valentine towards the end of the film. This Troper honestly thought Tony, and not Anton, was the Designated Love Interest right up until he, while paniked by Anton's childish attempt to prevent him from saving Valentina's soul, shoved Valentine. Most of the film seemed to suggest that, while he was manipulative in a charismatic sense, Tony was a genuinely good-hearted person who had good intentions, and, if his original personality really WAS a jerk, that his time with Dr. Parnassus (not to mention falling in love with Valentine) was a sort of transformation. He was the only person that got serious character development, to the point where the final scenes of the film seemed like outright character derailmant. Is shoving a woman while panicked really enough to cross the moral event horizon, particularly when the antagonist up until that point in the film was satan? Or is this troper in serious need of a reconsideration of things?
    • Tony was trying to save Valentina because he thought that doing one good deed would make up for the many horrible, horrible deeds he did before the troupe found him. Anton wasn't necessarily trying to stop him from saving Valentina, but at least make sure than Valentina knew first what a horrible person he was in real life. And as soon as Valentina learned what he had done ( HARVESTING THE ORGANS OF CHILDREN FOR PROFIT) she hated him. So yes, you are in serious need of a reconsideration of things. And Satan wasn't such a bad guy.
    • Considering that Tony was ostensibly based on real-life hated political figure Tony Blair, I'd probably hazard that it's not meant to be a positive portrayal.
      • Oh, Satan was still a monster when you take into account everything he does in the movie. It's just that Tom Waits' portray of him is Affably Evil with Even Evil Has Standards thrown in for good measure.
      • Additionally, the reason Tony was so willing to sacrifice himself was because he thought he'd figured the mirror out, and making the "good" choice would be as simple as climbing a ladder to fame and success.
    • Still, there's nothing that suggests he didn't regret doing "that", and those Russian mobsters might have given him no other choice. They probably should have dropped more clues to how evil he was earlier.
      • Feeling you have no other choice than to con money? Sure. Feeling you have no other choice than selling children's organs? That's not something you consider just because you owe someone cash.
    • This troper thought he just wanted another chance to climb the ladder, and was using the "saving Valentina" thing as a pretense. Also, there were hints from the beginning that Tony wasn't a good guy. When he saw the newspaper, he seemed pretty concerned about not letting them find out who he is.
      • My first clue that Tony wasn't good was when he seemed strangely unconcerned about thinking that Anton raped the young woman. When he says "C'mon, we all heard her screaming" he sounds more like he believed Anton stole a cookie from the jar. Other clues to me were him conning the older lady off her jewelry; that he looks different each time he enters imaginary; when him laughing when the mobsters died; being wanting Anton to wake up just to get him to help him the ladders again ( despite Anton coming to his rescue); referring to the crying girl as a "choice"; rolling his eyes at Valentina when she wanted to help said girl... Some aren't as obvious until a rewatch, but the clues are there.
    • You haven't seen the movie since, have you? Tony doesn't shove her, he hits her with his fist and starts yelling about how she betrayed him when all she wanted was for him to stop beating up Anton.
  • Why is Parnassus considered a good guy? Compared to Tony he is, but think of how many people he's killed for letting them go into the mirror. And he sacrificed his unborn daughter just so he could get some nookie.
    • It was shown that he Wouldn't Hurt a Child or otherwise rejects minors in the Imaginarium, as the only authority on what goes on beyond the mirror we not only can take his word that giving into temptation results in Nice Job Breaking It, Hero or making the "right" choice = Good Feels Good based on the person in question we also see it demonstrated in film with the Dr's daughter, and note that his wife suffered a case of But I Can't Be Pregnant! around the age of 60 indicating that he was attempting to Take a Third Option or going for Loophole Abuse. Overall to me he gives off a Good Is Not Nice vibe more than a standard Character Alignment.
      • Oddly, it seems that Mr. Nick is the only one who kills people in the Imaginarium. Parnassus just seems to give them a revelation then spit them back out high as a kite (see: The High-End Mall Scene). I figured that Parnassus "purified" their souls, while Mr. Nick...well...
      • Wait, how do we know Satan killed them? They could have just chosen evil and again been kicked out, and were then committed to a life of sin. Isn't that kind of implied that people choosing sin makes the world as a whole a worse place?
      • I can't remember the exact quote, but when the police leaves after the drunk disappear Parnassus says something about him being gone and how it wasn't that big a loss. to me it seemed to imply people making the wrong choice die.
  • They never explain why Percy is immortal! He was there from the beginning, right? So how come he never ages at all? It seems like somehow he got to be immortal without having to deal with the devil.
    • On the first viewing it seems like in other morality tales God is present as well as The Devil, on the second viewing it seems that Dr. Parnassus’ first wager simply included Percy, and on the last viewing the only advice that seems advisable is to go with the flow.
    • I figured he was always involved in the first deal, and then he wasn't included in the re-mortalizing because he had no stake in it. Thus, he kept the immortality. No idea how he kept so damn youthful, though.
    • I figured that they were both already magical. They were monks in a fantastic hidden temple with floating carpets. And really we don't know if Percy isn't some kind of magical entity himself.
    • We know Percy isn't a 'midget' but something else entirely based on his oft-repeated line. It doesn't seem too unnatural for me to conclude that he is just immortal.
    • Percy is basically the film's Tom Bombadil. I'm willing to bet he's an entity more similar to the Devil than Dr. Parnassus, though.
  • Is Mr. Nick the Devil in the traditional sense, or the dark side to Parnassus' power over imagination?
    • He's more of an interpretation of the classic demon. He's "evil", but not necessarily vile. He's even shown to have something a kind side, if not a bit of affection for Parnassus. He appears in the Imaginarium as part of the bargain for ending Parnassus' eternal life, he got 50% of it.
    • Considering that Mr. Nick is capable of fulfilling Faustian Bargains with ease, he probably is a "real" devil. However, he loves gambling far more than he loves winning, and Parnassus is his favourite opponent. If he wins, the game stops and Mr. Nick goes bored; hence there must always be new games to be had. Double or nothing.
  • How could Tony DIE inside the Imaginarium? I thought it was meant to be metaphorical, not literal, the death.
    • What made you think that? The drunk from the beginning disappears into the thin air after being killed inside the Imaginarium. All the consequences you face inside are perfectly real to you.
      • That doesn't explain why Anton seemingly falls to his death but then marries Valentina once outside, though.
      • Anton was pushed, he didn't make a choice.
  • Maybe I missed some sort of subtext, but why was being a brutal cop the "good" choice, and going home to mother and the farm the "evil" one?
    • That's been bothering me as well. The best explanation I could come up with is something like... well, if I recall correctly, the (non-signing) policeman urges them to at least "channel their violence for the good" or something along those lines, whereas going home to mother and the farm is the "easy way out", so to speak - the mobsters can either face the fact that yes, they are bad people, but they're not beyond redemption if they try, or they can try to keep running away from responsibility. Something like that, maybe.
      • Indeed. Parnassus says as much when describing the nature of his first bet: Parnassus recruits disciples for stories and imagination, and Mr. Nick recruits disciples for fear. It wasn’t about Good versus Evil. It was about imaginative Enlightenment versus keeping comfortable.
    • Or that it's not a choice between good or evil, but a choice between excitement and imagination and safe, boring desires. Going home is boring but safe, staying to fix your messes by becoming a cop is exciting.
  • A minor thing, but did it bug anyone else that Parnassus kept calling Valentina "Scrumpy"? I mean, aside from sounding kind of boyish, it's a pretty bizarre nickname in itself, and seems sort of arbitrary - no link to her actual name at all. Did they ever give a reason for that?
    • Maybe Parnassus really liked cider.
      • If that's a part of it, maybe it's a reference to apples?
    • Nickname probably comes from the Doctor at one time calling her “scrumptious.” That would explain Anton’s embarrassment over using the same term early on in the film.
    • Parental nicknames are normally odd things based on in-jokes - like how Parnassus and Valentina play at fisticuffs. This troper's stepsister is called Cheddarbob by her father; the origins of that name are long lost in the sands of time. Scrumpy's practically normal.

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