If you ever saw The Life Of Brian, you will surely remember the stoning scene, the sequence in which Brian miss-spells “Romans go home” or Brian addressing the crowd who repeats his every word - “We've all got to think for ourselves!” To me the movie’s most emotional scene is all the way at the end. Steve Kaplan says “Drama helps us dream about what we could be, but comedy helps us live with who we are. Comedy tells the truth.” Brian is by far the most absurd film I have chosen in this series, yet it contains more truths than any other MM movie.
GEORGE - THE BEATLE WHO LOVED IT
When the film was released, at school we would dare only speak about this movie in hushed voices. It was just as dangerous to catholic priests as communism was to the US. The controversy had really started long before, when the Pythons sued EMI after the corporation pulled out as financier. The movie might never have happened if it weren’t for Beatle George Harrison’s love of the script. Many decades later, it appears to me the film was hardly ever about religion at all. The Brian of Nazareth story only provides a fertile background to criticize the seemingly endless array of human foibles.
I AM BRIAN
Among many others, the film targets hypocrisy, bigotry, stupidity … and being British. In one of the final scenes, a bystander offers to carry the cross of a struggling man, but when the do-gooder is tied to the cross himself, he points out the error politely and ultimately accepts his predicament in order to keep the peace. In a similar fashion, when the Romans arrive to release Brian, the fellow on the cross next to him quips “I am Brian!” (A Spartacus reference?). But in true Brit fashion, he tries to rectify the error when the Romans effectively save his life by taking him off the cross.
END ON A LOW
When I rewatched the film again recently, I had completely forgotten about the circumstances in which Brian reaches his final predicament. First Brian’s resistance mates show up to tell him how much they respect him, only to abandon him next. Lucky, you think, there are still his girlfriend and his mother… But then a group of silly looking warriors approaches, who draw their swords and ... commit a swift suicide. That was the last truly hilarious moment in the film as what follows is intensely sad. After Brian’s girlfriend Judith tells him “It’s great what you’re doing” and “I’ll never forget you” before running off, his mother appears and tells him he got what he deserved.
In his final moment, poor Brian is abandoned by all who previously claimed to care about him and he learns that chilling lesson about human existence: we all die alone. For a short while, all the levity drains out of this wonderful movie and we are left with comedy’s bitter truth. But not for long, as this is the cue for Eric Idle, who recites the famous words “Some things in life are bad; they can really make you mad...”