Life of Brian as Historical Satire Essay examples

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Monty Python’s Life of Brian traces the tragic last year of Brian of Nazareth, a man who shares his exact birthday and town with Jesus Christ, the subject of countless biblical epic films. Comedy distinguishes this biopic, which features a male actor playing the analog of the Virgin Mary, a cured leper begging for alms, and spontaneous song on the crucifix. It is not sufficient, however, to relegate the film to parody, which seems the obvious criticism, simply for taking a comedic outlook. The unique style and construction of many scenes imply that comedy partially motivated the film, but other stimuli clearly contributed to its simple message. Closely analyzing the film’s principal utilization of non-realistic elements and scenes…show more content…
In this case, the viewer expects the Virgin Mary to accept frankincense, gold, and myrrh. The feminized male voice, the hideous face, the slapstick, and questioning if myrrh is “a dangerous animal” all interrupt anticipated conventions that are informed by Bible scholarship, history, and a host of previous artistic works. The canonical information that contributes to the viewer’s expectations is restored when the mother tells the three wise men that her child is called Brian, thus relinquishing the Christ parody that could have been. The realism that permeates the first few shots allows the payoff joke to work. Production designer and group member Terry Gilliam describes the achieved realism in relation to the intended overall style: “We actually wanted to give it a very rich feel, we didn’t want it to be too lit. You very often find comedy is over-lit, but we wanted it to look like an art film. I don’t see any reason why a comedy shouldn’t be beautiful. I wanted it to look like an epic: to look rich and have depth of color.” The intricate scenes in the film reveal a balance between humor and historical reality that allows it to creatively explore ancient culture without having to rely on other canonical films for a cheap laugh. The movie-going public naturally assumes comedy plus history equals parody, which is usually appropriate considering, for example, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Mel Brooks, 1993), which barely

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