Reviewed By: Jack Dawson
Well another month has gone, and another Interactive Film has been put on by Monkey Collective (NOT to be confused with The People’s Collective of Monkey or the Popular Collective, Splitters), taking on Monty Python’s Life of Brian this time around. With Stonings, Fake Beards and Executive Decisions galore, this show was a gallon of fun. And a cardboard cut-out of Brian outside the theatre didn’t hurt the atmosphere either.
Aroundabout 2000 years ago, there was a man of such charisma and compassion that even death was not the end for his teachings.
This is not his story.
This is the story of Brian Cohen, a rather put upon young man who joins a revolutionary movement in order to grab the attention of a young woman. Unfortunately, due to some awkward business with a Gourd, an Alien Spaceship and a man named Biggus Dickus, he soon becomes the centre of a truly life changing movement.
Once again Monkey Collective has done a stand-out job of putting on this show, as well as the aforementioned decoration outside of the theatre itself, there was the usual costume contest (including a rather good impression of one of those dastardly Judean People’s Fronters), and the rules were well suited to the film. There was even a sheet of lyrics for ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ for us all to sing along to, as well as balloons to throw during the Stoning. Honestly the event made me incredibly excited for their next interactive showing of Back to the Future 2 on May 24th.
As I mentioned in my review of Monkey Collective’s Holy Grail, Life of Brian is objectively the best Monty Python film, telling the more coherent story with some of the most insightful and nuanced commentary they’ve ever done. And another viewing of it did little to change my mind on that score. Anyone with a passing familiarity with any of the Abrahamic religions will get something out of this movie, as it examines the institution of Religion and how it can be corrupted into an abusive system that reinforces institutions of privilege rather than dismantling them.
Which is weird considering this movie has Aliens that turn up out of nowhere to save the main character.
Brian doesn’t really care about Religion. He doesn’t really care about any huge causes. His hatred of the Romans isn’t even fully developed, manifesting as a kind of low-grade irritation and name-calling. At the end of the day, he just wants to chat up a girl and get by.
But due to a series of accidents and not finishing his sermon in the marketplace, an impressionable crowd assumes he is the new Messiah (having followed a few ultimate saviours, they consider themselves rather good judges).
And from there on, Brian is bombarded with requests for leadership and guidance, all from a crowd who don’t care to listen to anything that contradicts the narrative of blind obedience that they’ve been parroting, and who refuse to take no for an answer.
After several hours of trying to meet the howling crowd halfway, Brian is imprisoned, sentenced to death, and can only join in a jolly song as he and the other Crucifixion victims starve to death.
And that’s probably one of the best aspects about this satire.
There’s a strange inevitability that permeates this film, and it ties in directly with the commentary on how hollow religious institutions can become. Ultimately Brian doesn’t stand for anything as a Messiah, he doesn’t improve on any of the corruptions or acts of violence inherent in the system, and in the end his death only serves as one more function of both organized religion and Colonial Justice. The People’s Front of Judea have a Martyr, the Empire has an example, and all that’s left to Brian is to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and sing along.
It’s a rather nice deconstruction of typical ‘chosen one’ narratives, and it demonstrates better than almost any other comedy I’ve seen how ordinary people are shoved into the meat grinder for the sake of Grand Narratives, especially if the grand narrative serves ordinary people.
Life of Brian is a genuinely great film, and you don’t need my help to find that out. But seeing it again with a crowd of fans who shouted out obscure references and timely quips certainly piqued my interest in this film, and the affection and warmth delivered to this film was extremely telling.
All I can say is, tune in to Luna Cinemas next time for when things start to get heavy.