The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

New this week Deliberate mistake: Baron Munchausen sends his courier, Berthold, on a one-hour errand to procure a bottle of the finest Tokay from the imperial wine cellars in Vienna. Berthold returns with the bottle within the hour and (in one continuous wide shot) hands the bottle to Baron Munchausen, who then hands it to the Sultan, who effortlessly plucks the cork from the bottle with his fingertips and pours a glass for himself. But there is no way the Sultan could simply pluck out the cork with his fingertips in one move; this extremely valuable bottle of wine is visibly sealed (in every shot) with a thick, air-tight red wax. This wax must first be cut and peeled away to access the deeply-embedded cork, and the cork must then be removed with a wine key (corkscrew). The action of properly opening the bottle would have required more time than the entire scene itself; so, to expedite the flow of the shot, director Terry Gilliam deliberately chose to forego a proper uncorking.

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Charles Austin Miller
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New this week Suggested correction: You're ignoring the fact that the entire scene is a story the real Munchausen is telling from memory. There are many fantastic elements that do not hold with reality, like him riding his horse out of the window, falling several stories, and landing safety, or Adolphus being able to see and shoot to the other side of the world. The bottle is simply an example of Munchausen not adhering to reality.

Jason Hoffman

Yet, at the end, Sally addresses Baron Munchausen directly and asks him the question that the audience has been wondering throughout the whole movie: "It wasn't just a story, was it?" The Baron solemnly shakes his head, affirming that he was telling the truth all along, regardless of how fantastic it sounded. This point is often missed by the movie's critics.

Charles Austin Miller

The point I raised wasn't that the Baron's story wasn't true, but rather that he embellished it.

Jason Hoffman

In any event, the Sultan's effortless uncorking of the bottle was a deliberate mistake intended to allow a whole series of actions to occur sequentially in the single wide shot in less than 5 seconds.

Charles Austin Miller

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Trivia

This film was actually the third installment in director Terry Gilliam's "Trilogy of Imagination," all dealing with fantasy escapism at different ages in life. The first film of the trilogy was 1981's "Time Bandits," a surreal fantasy seen through the eyes of a child; the second film was 1985's "Brazil," another surreal fantasy seen through the eyes of a middle-aged man; 1988's "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" was yet another surreal fantasy seen through the eyes of an elderly gentleman.

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