When it comes to splitting Monty Python fans, you have a couple of choices. On one hand you have people who deem The Holy Grail the best of the movies, the other Life Of Brian (And that odd one who prefers Meaning Of Life. Yes, I am talking to you.) Well, I am here to settle all of that. If you haven’t guess already by the title this, then I am saying that Life Of Brain is better. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Holy Grail. In fact, if I were to personally pick between the two, I’d pick Grail every time. It’s silliness, the music, the comedy; it’s the winner of my heart. But sitting down, and actually critically examining the two then Life of Brian is the champion.
Life of Brian tells the story of Brian, a normal citizen of Judea. But Brian has been plagued all his life. After all, being born in the same place and the same time as Jesus (the barn next door none the less,) it’s hard to not have people confusing you with the Son of God. However, after a series of unfortunate events, Brian is soon believed to be the Messiah and is followed around by a group of religious fanatics. Pestered by the Romans, hounded by the believers and pestered by his mother, poor Brian can’t get a break as his life leads him up to a dramatic finale.
As with every Monty Python film, television show, or stage show, the comedic timing and deliver are impeccable. Every scene is full of lashings of farce. From the rude Roman names to correcting Latin graffiti; there is a slice of humour everywhere Brian turns. There is no denying that the comedy troupe excel in comedic timing and their hilarious characters. Each of the Monty Python crew play multiple characters within the movie and play them convincingly well.
That’s great but we are used to this. After all, they play multiple characters in their television series and they do in Grail. What raises Brian above it all is the satire. Not actually a satire on the story of Jesus itself it is cleverly a stab at the worshippers. In one poignant scene, Brian tells the populous that they must all think for themselves and they eerily repeat what he says. It’s a poke at people who put too much faith into their beliefs that causes them to be narrow minded. In one instance, they kill a man for even angry denying Brian as the Messiah. It’s weirdly accurate and scarily real.
Controversially, they caused a hell storm. But that’s the brilliance of Brian. Instead of people appreciating the satire, people would instead angrily boycott the film believing it to be blasphemous against Jesus.
If you don’t believe the sheer anger of religious leaders, watch the debate Michael Palin and John Cleese with Malcolm Muggeridge and Meryvn Stockwood, The Bishop of Southwark on BBC show Friday Night Saturday Morning. After the opposition missed the opening 15 minutes where they showed the clear separation of Jesus and Brian, the two men soon delved into jibes and name calling. Watch whilst the two comedians who are being accused give a well thought out and researched points are subjected to schoolchild taunting. It’s fascinating to watch.
I digress; much like Jesus, Life of Brian’s message was taken and misinterpreted by the mass. But cleverly they used it to their advantage. In Sweden they advertised it as the film “so funny, Norway had it banned.” Life of Brian is so much more than the quotes you pass your fellow geek friends and fathers (me and my Dad try to slip one in at least once a day.) It is a clever and historical (See “What did the Romans ever do for us,” moment,) movie that gets legions of fans yearly.
And bloody hilarious.
Happy 40th Monty Python’s Life of Brian.