Life of Brian
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Films and TV
- "Oh no it isn't."
Life of Brian, as well as being hilarious, brings up some important aspects about the nature of cults. It very clearly shows the speed that they propagate and get out of hand, as well as the gullibility of the followers and their ability to blindly do anything their "leader" says; even if their leader didn't actually say it or in fact said the opposite.
It also takes several digs at "revolutionary" groups, showing the extent to which such movements can splinter and be at each others' throats over hair-splitting disagreements, and showing the extent to which many such groups are all talk and no action.
Forget it being a parody of Jesus and his rise to "fame," it's a documentary!
Production was thrown into crisis when original financiers EMI read the script and dropped out a few days before production began. After a desperate and futile attempt to secure funding from another company, they were finally aided by George Harrison of Beatles fame, who put together the money and in the process founded successful British film company Handmade Films.
Many Christian groups opposed the film's supposed anti-Christian message, despite such a message being curiously absent from the film. Showing admirable ecumenical spirit, the American Rabbinical Alliance, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, and the Rabbinical Council of Syrian and Near Eastern Sephardic Communities of America also denounced it as “blasphemous,” “grievously insulting,” and “a vicious attack upon Judaism and the Bible and a cruel mockery of the religious feelings of Christians." It seems that the controversy has much in common with the Harry Potter-related controversies in that no one who was upset by the film had watched it or even knew anything about it other than what another offended person told them. The Pythons had a "debate" with Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark on an hour-long chat show. The Bishop severely criticized them and was able to appear to win the debate by burying the Pythons in a flood of logical fallacies and nonsense. After many years, several Christian groups and churches had showings of the movie after stepping out of their echo chambers and realizing that it was just a funny movie that had little if any blasphemous material.
In the UK, film classification and censorship is a matter for local councils, and 11 councils banned the film while 28 imposed additional age restrictions above those recommended by the (advisory) British Board of Film Censors, limiting it to over-18s only (X certificate). The BBFC had taken legal advice and determined the film was not blasphemous, passing it as AA (age 14 and over). The distributors refused to let it be edited or shown with an X certificate, so it was unshown in several additional council areas. In Harrogate the film was banned by councillors without watching it; a similar prohibition in Thanet was overturned a few months later. Despite arguments about blasphemy, the BBFC suggested that bad language and nudity were the councils' chief concern.
In 2008 Devon council finally rescinded the X certificate after the film was voted the fans' favourite at the English Riviera International Comedy Festival in Torquay. Glasgow lifted its unofficial ban in 2009. Dorset reduced the X certificate for one screening in 2015 but insisted the original decision stood.
The film was banned entirely in Ireland, Norway, and Singapore. The ban in Norway was on the basis that it violated Section 142 of the Norwegian Constitution, which prohibited insults to religious groups. The Irish ban was lifted in 1987.
Despite all that it is a surprisingly popular movie among students of theology, mostly because it parodies the incredibly dreary and boring "bible movies".
- "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
- "How shall we fuck off, oh lord?"
- "Not the Nine O'Clock News: Monty Python worshippers" (mocking the "debate" between the Pythons, Muggeridge and the Bishop)
- What did the Life of Brian ever do for us?, Sanjeev Bhaskar, The Telegraph, 29 Nov 2009
- Three Jewish Groups Condemn ‘Monty Python's Life of Brian’ The New York Times, 28 Aug 1979
- Monty Python’s Life of Brian, British Local Censorship, and the "Pythonesque", University of Wisconsin Antenna, 2015
- Case Studies: Monty Python's Life of Brian, BBFC website
- Monty Python's The Life Of Brian film ban lifted after 28 years, The Telegraph, 2008
- City lifts ban on Life of Brian, BBC, 2009
- Bournemouth cinema finally set to show Monty Python's Life of Brian after councillors relax ban on film 36 years after it was released, Daily Mail, 2015
- Top Ten Movies banned in Ireland, IrishCentral.com
- Norway Bans Monty Python Film, Eugene Register-Guard (via wire services), Jan 15, 1980, via Google News
- Life of Brian & the Defamation Act