The number of things that needs to happen the exact way for me to be writing this, and for you to be reading this is mind-boggling. If I had seriously studied adequately for JEE Advanced, I might not have been here. If you had decided not to be an engineer but be perhaps a climate change activist, you probably would not be reading this. And these are just the major decisions. Our life and our choices have been affected by countless random things, and one not happening might lead to a butterfly effect and things would be starkly different. This trope is popularly referred to as ‘For want of a nail” based on the famous poem, where because of a tiny nail missing on a horse’s shoe a merchant ends up losing everything he holds dear.
Life of Brian explores this trope with a fascinating premise. What would happen if someone else was born at the same time as Jesus Christ just next door to him? What if everyone mistook him to be the “Messiah”. Released in 1979 with the trademark Monty Python brand of snark and wit, this film was outright banned in countries like Norway and Ireland, with bans lasting in some cases for decades. In response to this, in typical Monty Python fashion, they marked the movie in Sweden with posters proclaiming, “This film is banned in Norway. Imagine how funny it must be”.
The story follows Brian played by Graham Chapman, who grows up detesting the Roman Occupation of his homeland of Judea. He joins one of the rebel factions, the People’s Front of Judea (not to be confused with the Judean People’s Front) not out of any grand ambitions to free his homeland, but because he saw a girl who looked cute in that party. The movie progress with his various shenanigans, involving plans to raid their resident Roman senator’s mansion while he was hosting his good friend, “Biggus Dickus”. In a way that Murphy would be proud of, Brian’s plan goes horribly awry, and he is the only survivor of the party.
While escaping from the guards, he falls into a square, filled with prophets all trying to convince bystanders to join their latest religion. He repeats some of the things, he has heard Jesus say, and unsurprisingly people like what he’s saying. Post this; he gets a series of unwanted followers who follow him back to his house. They took every word and action of his as gospel, and the slightest unusual thing was hailed as a miracle. Even with him appearing fully nude outside his window, his mom shouting, “There is a mess here but no messiah”, the mobs refused to budge. The Roman guards finally catch up to him and capture him. Judith, played by Sue ones-Davies, the girl mentioned above who made Brian join the revolution in the first place, manages to get the order to free Brian passed. But by this time, Brian is already well on the way to Crucifixion.
Filled with observational humour, and puns going all the way from side-splittingly hilarious to ones that make you groan and repeatedly facepalm yourself with an iron brick, there is not one dull moment throughout the movie. At the same, amidst all the laughing, they ask profound philosophical questions that strangely does not detract attention from the comedy.
Monty Python’s influence has been immense. Von Rossum loved them so much; he gave their name to the language he designed. My first to introduction to Monty Python was the various references being thrown around on Reddit. It grew to such a number that I knew I had to know what was happening. What started with the “Holy Grail”, I quickly succumbed. And I love every minute of it. Dry wit, amazing acting if you haven’t watched it already do it now.