The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Imaginarium of doctor parnassus ver3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Produced by
Written by
Music by
CinematographyNicola Pecorini
Edited byMick Audsley
Distributed by
Release date
  • 22 May 2009 (2009-05-22) (Cannes)
  • 16 October 2009 (2009-10-16) (United Kingdom)
  • 11 November 2009 (2009-11-11) (France)
  • 25 December 2009 (2009-12-25) (Canada and USA)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • France
  • English
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$64.4 million[3]

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 fantasy dramedy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Charles McKeown. The film follows a travelling theatre troupe whose leader, having made a bet with the Devil, takes audience members through a magical mirror to explore their imaginations and present them with a choice between self-fulfilling enlightenment or gratifying ignorance.

Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Verne Troyer, and Tom Waits star in the film, though Ledger's death one-third of the way through filming caused production to be temporarily suspended.[4] Ledger's role was recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell portraying transformations of Ledger's character as he travels through a dream world; the film marks Ledger's final film performance. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus interweaves several plot lines in a nonlinear arrangement.

The film made its world premiere during the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, out of competition.[5] The film, which cost $30 million to make, grossed more than $60 million in its worldwide theatrical release.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was nominated for two Academy Awards in the categories Best Art Direction (art directed by Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro, and set decorated by Caroline Smith; lost to Avatar) and Best Costume Design (costumes designed by Monique Prudhomme; lost to The Young Victoria).[6]


Outside a London pub, an elderly bearded sage named Doctor Parnassus runs a nearly-bankrupt travelling theater troupe, which includes his teenaged daughter Valentina, a sleight-of-hand expert and barker Anton, and a dwarf assistant Percy. The troupe's main attraction is a portal to a magical "Imaginarium", a surreal dreamworld that transforms according to its participants' own desires and offers them a choice between difficult self-fulfillment or easy ignorance. After a drunkard is swayed to the latter, Parnassus says he has lost "another one" to Mr. Nick, a suave personification of the Devil, who often appears without warning to taunt Parnassus and gloat over Parnassus's failures. He reminds Parnassus that in three days Valentina turns 16, and her soul will belong to Mr. Nick. Hundreds of years ago, Mr. Nick tricked Parnassus into accepting immortality, after making a wager similar to his current predicament.

As the troupe crosses a bridge, Anton notices someone hanging beneath it. After they rescue the man and revive him, he spits out a golden pipe that allowed him to continue breathing while being hanged; unwilling to explain his past, the man convinces his rescuers that he has amnesia. Parnassus sadly contemplates the impending loss of his daughter, and Mr. Nick visits him, revealing the identity of the rescued man: a disgraced philanthropist named Tony, who was being hanged by Russian gangsters for owing them money. Mr. Nick also offers Parnassus a new wager: Valentina can stay with Parnassus past the age of 16 if Parnassus can win five souls to the path of self-fulfillment before Mr. Nick can win five souls to the path of ignorance, all within the universe of the Imaginarium.

The newcomer Tony soon joins the troupe as a barker even more charismatic than Anton, who is becoming suspicious. Tony convinces the troupe to remodel the show into a more modern act. While performing, Tony lures a posh, affluent woman into the Imaginarium and follows her, where they enter a pastel-coloured dream-world representing the woman's imagination. The woman's imagination also changes Tony's face to one of her liking; Tony dances elegantly with her, and they notice a motel run by Mr. Nick, but Tony convinces the woman instead to take a gondola ride that wins the first soul for Parnassus. Tony falls back out of the Imaginarium, returning his face to normal. The woman exits shortly after and gives the troupe a vast sum of money as thanks for her marvellous experience. When three other women enter, each re-emerges elated; and thus Parnassus has won a total of four souls. However, Mr. Nick easily takes the souls of four Russian gangsters looking to hunt Tony down for his debts. They chase Tony into the Imaginarium and quickly fall into a trap laid by Mr. Nick. Thus, the score is tied: four to four.

With the bet nearing its end, Parnassus reluctantly reveals to Valentina her secret origins: after ageing from immortality, Parnassus made a new pact with Mr. Nick to be youthful again, in order to win the heart of a woman he loved. In exchange, any child he fathered would become Mr. Nick's property at age 16. Valentina is horrified at her father's revelation. Meanwhile, having discovered that Tony is a fraudulent charity scammer who stole organs from Third World orphans and sold them to wealthy westerners, Anton confronts Tony, but Tony fights him off, pushes Valentina into the Imaginarium, and joins her. Influenced by Valentina's romantic desires, Tony's face changes to that of her dream lover, and they float along a beautiful river in a gondola, fulfilling their shared sexual feelings. A child in rags disrupts their serene boat trip, transitioning the scene to one of Tony as a philanthropist, speaking at a fundraiser for impoverished children. Anton, following the pair into the Imaginarium, appears in the form of an outspoken child and exposes Tony as a fraud. A mob of angry benefactors pursues Tony, and, as the landscape disintegrates, Anton confesses his love for Valentina before falling into a void.

Distraught and angry over her father's bargain and a lifetime of hiding the truth from her, Valentina willingly gives her soul over to Mr. Nick. Disillusioned by the easy victory, Mr. Nick offers Parnassus yet another bargain: to trade Valentina's soul for Tony's. Therefore, as the mob approaches Tony to hang him, Parnassus presents Tony with his true sturdy golden pipe that will allow to him survive the hanging as well as a near-perfect but brittle replica. Parnassus hopes that Tony will choose wrong; indeed, Tony inserts the cheap replica in his windpipe and thus dies when the mob lynches him. Mr. Nick keeps his word, freeing Valentina's soul but not revealing her new location to Parnassus, who is abandoned to wander in despair for years, trapped in his own Imaginarium.

One day, Parnassus looks up to find himself a pitiful beggar back in London, when Valentina suddenly walks by him. He sees that she is now happily married to Anton, and they have a daughter. As Parnassus watches them through a window, his old assistant Percy walks up to him, dissuading him from interrupting Valentina's new cheerful life. Parnassus finally seems to be at peace, just knowing that his daughter is happy. Soon, Parnassus and Percy have teamed up again, presenting toy theatres of the Imaginarium and the troupe on a street corner. As Mr. Nick appears one final time to beckon Parnassus over to him for a new bargain, Percy quickly intervenes, ordering Parnassus back to work.

Other Languages
Türkçe: Dr. Parnassus