Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The

image for Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The

Short takes

Not recommended under 13, (Violence, disturbing themes, scary scenes) PG to 15 (Disturbing themes)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The
  • a review of Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 October 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, scary and disturbing scenes and themes and coarse language.
Children 13-14 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes.
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Menacing themes, violence and coarse language.
Length: 122 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Centuries before this story begins Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) won a bet with the Devil (Tom Waits) and, as a reward, was given immortality. This suited him just fine until he fell in love with a beautiful young woman. In order to win her heart he made another wager with the Devil and was given youth in exchange for any child that might be born to the couple. The Devil stipulated that from the age of sixteen that child would belong to him.

When, at the age of sixty, the love of his life dies giving birth to a daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), Dr. Parnassus realizes the extent of what he has done. As the eve of her 16th birthday draws nearer he finds himself making another desperate wager with the devil in order to gain her freedom.

With the help of his travelling “Imaginarium”, his faithful companion Percy (Verne Troyer) and Anton (Andrew Garfield) a young actor in love with Valentina, Dr Parnassus sets about the task of saving souls, trying to claim five before the devil does. The group are helped along the way by Tony, a corrupt philanthropist whom they save after the Russian mafia tries to hang him (Tony is played predominately by Heath Ledger, but also in a series of transformations within the Imaginarium by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell).

A desperate race of good versus evil ensues as Dr Parnassus and his friends try to win against all odds while unsuspecting volunteers are given a glimpse of the alternate realities that lie within the Imaginarium.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Making wagers with the Devil; gambling with a child’s life; alcoholism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Percy kicks a policeman.
  • A drunken man throws some people off the stage.
  • Anton takes a woman into the Imaginarium by force.
  • The Imaginarium races through the streets banging and bashing against buildings and light posts as it races away from an angry crowd.
  • Members of the Russian Mafia chase Tony into the Imaginarium and try to catch him while he escapes any way he can. They eventually corner him and punch him. Anton tries to help him but is thrown against a rock. They attempt to hang him but are distracted and wind up being killed themselves.
  • Percy and Anton are both thrown off the stage platform. There is a dreadful sound when Anton lands and he is in a lot of pain. It remains unclear if anything is broken.
  • Tony attacks a child (who is really Anton).
  • Tony strikes Valentina and knocks her down. Later he hits and punches her again.
  • Tony hits and punches Dr. Parnassus who begins to foam at the mouth. He appears to be having some sort of seizure but an ambulance officer infers that he is dead and Valentina believes him.
  • Tony is attacked by an angry mob and killed by hanging.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are a number of scenes in the Imaginarium that are extremely surreal and dark and would be frightening to younger viewers. In one scene a man is lost and has fallen into a chasm filled with empty beer bottles and more bottles are being thrown at him. He is then taken by enormous jellyfish that propel him through space with their terrifying tentacles while he swears he will never drink again. He is dropped on a huge tack and is nearly impaled. He is then blown up in a bar while drinking beer.
  • In another scene a river changes into a large, black, snake that rears its head in a menacing fashion while wearing the face of the Devil himself.
  • While floating in a boat Tony comes upon a place where there are dead cows in the water and the river is filled with what appear to be rotting carcasses, rubbish and blood.
  • Throughout the film there are many scenes where people’s faces are transformed or where they wear costumes or masks that could be frightening or confusing to young viewers.
  • Anton, appearing as a child in the Imaginarium, is attacked by Tony. He is beaten to the ground before a horrified audience.
  • The world inside the Imaginarium appears to crack and crumble as it is apparently being destroyed. People are running away and glass is shattering around Valentina, while a chasm opens up and Anton falls into it despite Valentina’s efforts to save him.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also very likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes described above and the theme of making wagers with the Devil, particularly when they threaten the life of a child.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above and the theme of making wagers with the Devil, particularly when they threaten the life of a child.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the theme of threatening the life of a child by making a wager with the Devil.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A drunken stranger lunges at Valentina, telling her that she has got “a nice pair of tits.” He goes on to say how he wants to grab her while she runs away from him.
  • Tony is encouraged by an older woman to have a one night stand with her. She wants to lead him to a hotel, while he persuades her to do otherwise.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Valentina’s outfits often expose a lot of cleavage.
  • There is a group of policemen in the Imaginarium who are wearing women’s dresses with heels and fish net stockings. They do a dance that exposes a lot of their thighs.
  • Tony and Valentina kiss in a gondola. The boat rocks back and forth and when the scene returns to them Valentina is partially dressed, implying that they have had sex.
  • A man squeezes Anton’s fake boobs.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Numerous club goers are seen drinking and coming out of the club intoxicated.
  • In the Imaginarium there is a pub with hands holding beer, enticing people to enter and just have one drink.
  • Dr. Parnassus has an alcohol problem and is often found drinking or winds up drunk in some way or other.
  • The devil is often seen smoking.
  • Valentina smokes a cigarette while riding in a gondola with Tony.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “bitch” “shit” and “hell.”

In a nutshell

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus is a fantasy adventure film with numerous plot twists and special effects, leaving the viewer with much to think about long after the end credits have rolled. Disturbing scenes and themes make it unsuitable for younger viewers.

The main message from this movie is that we all make our own choices and choose our own destinies.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with older children include:

  • determination and creativity in problem solving
  • making positive, moral choices
  • devotion and faithfulness