The world as a story

Levitating monks battle the devil
who tries to break their
world sustaining storytelling.

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

Written by Charles McKeown and Terry Gilliam

Directed by Terry Gilliam

To me one of the most alluring aspect of screenwriting is its connection to life seen as a story. In this respect investigating the craft of writing is a bit like pondering our existence – and vice versa. That's why writing is not trivial. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why screen writing today is such a popular trend.

One of the best scenes in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” deals head on with the subject of the world as story. The scene is a beautifully shot flashback to the first meeting between dr. Parnassus and the devil, Mr. Nick. Milleniums ago, a towering and fantastic cave/fortess/temple deep in (Himalaya?) mountains. Dr. Parnassus – as a lead monk – oversees a kick ass (most participants levitate) group meditation. Clearly they are engaged in a super important activity. Suddenly the wind blows and the devil, Mr. Nick appears:

What exactly do you do here?

We tell the eternal story.


Oh.... What's that?


The story that sustains the universe.

The story without which there is nothing.


Nothing? Really. Are you telling me

that if you stop telling this story...

that the universe ceases to exist?

(After Mr. Nick stops the story and freezes the monks, a bird shits on his head, and the bad spell is broken.)

A sign! A message! That bird was a messenger...
from distant places we know not of!
Other places! The point is, you're wrong!
And I'm wrong! It doesn't have to be us here!
(indicating monks)
Somewhere in the world, right now...
someone else is telling a story! A different story!
A saga.. a romance... a tale of an unforeseen death.
Tragic or comic.. it doesn’t matter.
It’s sustaining the universe!
That's why we're still here.

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