The picture consists of several short stories, which, according to their authors, should shed some light on the obscure question that torments any of us at different stages of our existence – “what is the meaning of life?
4k movies reviews
In 1983 the last film of the absurdist comic troupe Monty Python, The Meaning of Life, was released. The picture is a musical, divided into several sketches, structurally unrelated to each other. The novellas cover the whole life of a man, from birth to death. Military service, participation in war, religion, and sexual life are all themes raised in full force and stomped on with great gusto. “The Meaning of Life” is the most expensive British project ($9 million). To convince the producers at Universal to invest, the Pythons did a very unusual thing, writing a poem about the budget, shooting and plot of the film.
The beginning of the picture uses the author’s easily recognizable animation. A witty song about the search for the meaning of life accompanies the catchy video sequence. Some of the opening shots evoke a clear analogy with the famous “The Wall” by Alan Parker, based on the legendary Pink Floyd album. This is also where Terry Gilliam would later push back from, using his years of experience in creating his “Brazil,” and John Cleese in “A Fish Called Wanda.”
Something coherent to say about the film itself is not easy enough. Subtle jokes that parody the films of Ingmar Bergman (“The Seventh Seal”) and Luis BuÃ±uel (“The Modest Charm of the Bourgeoisie”) alternate in sketches with the so-called “toilet humor” so disliked by some aesthetes. But the Pythons have never worked for the latter, their audience category is somewhat different. Let’s divide the narrative according to the principle of human life stages, as the cunning humorists did.
So, the first is “The Miracle of Birth.” Comedians have no sacred piety for this sacrament. The doctors who deliver the baby resemble the cheerful morons from the black-humored, coal-soaked jokes. For them, a baby is like a piece of meat, and the patient is a fool who can tell a lot of lies. The Pythonians anticipate with surprising insight the modern boom in videotaping the actual process of childbirth, speculating on what once seemed intimate, intended for a narrow circle of individuals. Just don’t get alarmed and accuse the comic troupe of being heartless. Their humor is in many ways surreal, though in places rather crude.
Second. One of the best “Meaning of Life” sketches. This time the sanctimony of the Catholic and Protestant churches was the object of mockery. The British, picking up the motifs of their own film, Life of Brian, openly mock the Catholic dogma on sex and the ban on the use of contraceptives. The comedians are parasitic on the secret fears of the churchmen, who dream that Catholicism will expand its influence as quickly as possible and squeeze out the stubborn Muslims. The obsession with crusades for the faith remains in the minds of Catholics. This fact is reinforced by Britain’s feeble colonial efforts, which in the end transformed the former ruler of the seas into a branch of the Third World. The current situation in Britain was predicted quite accurately by the comedians. Protestants are also getting it in the neck. Depraved in their hedonism, Protestants have generally forgotten about the true purpose of man, voiced by God, while not taking advantage of the imaginary successes of their church. The comic troupe tastefully mocked it all in a song, “Holy is Any Sperm,” coupled with a dance number, bringing the situation to its favorite absurdity.
Study. Next, the British high school gets its ass kicked in the nuts. This sketch features perhaps the film’s boldest jokes. The Pythons brazenly dissect the sex-education system. Rejecting the Bible and tales of the stork and the cabbage, the comedians shamelessly destroy yet another intimate mystery. Sex is taught as something trivialized and devoid of meaning. Given that Jane Austen’s novels mentioned sex in passing, and that aristocratic women engaged in it eight times a year, the comic group sees modernity through the past, armed with a telescope and a crooked mirror. Unnatural in their feelings, middle-class English couples have turned sex into an unnecessary and obsolete atavism. By spreading their ignorance and stupidity to the next generation. And in the most obvious way possible. So the accumulated energy finds its way out… right, in war (or as comedians clearly point out, in intraspecies fighting or fighting with your fellow man). The British have always been proud of their victorious army, which has bent half the world to the feet of the empire.
War became for many Britons a kind of meaning of life (some spent their whole lives in campaigns). This is why the company chooses the truest object of parody: the conflict with the Zulu, which is the subject of many hurrah-patriotic epics in British cinema. The gist is rightly captured. You can get a medal for killing a lot of enemies in a foreign land, but at home you could get the gallows for that. A lot of wounded and killed lie on the battlefield, while officers wander in search of a comrade’s leg stolen in Africa by a tiger. Yes, yes, surrealism and absurdity. The Pythons see mass deaths as entertainment, knocking down the unbounded degrees of pathos of Britain’s heroic heritage.
Those who have not been burned in the crucible of war have lived to middle age. Only in Monty Pythons they are simple philistines who know little of the meaning of life. The philistine essence itself is wittily mocked in a conversation between a married couple about philosophical dilemmas. Digging into their own little worlds, they can easily be deceived by those who are more sophisticated in matters of life. Once again, song and animation come to the rescue. Again, the Bible gets the better of them, this time the joke is on the legend of the Immaculate Conception. From the heart the filmmakers hit on humanity’s existential reflection after the devastating Second World War and the philosophical schools increasingly reinforcing it.
Fast-forward to the fall of life, and in passing masterful references to BuÃ±uel’s paintings, we move inexorably toward the end. Paraphrasing a Bergmanian conversation of knight and death, the Pythons give away the catharsis of all sanctimonious philistinism. Sacred awe before the bonehead is gradually replaced by outright mockery and misunderstanding of the full importance of the moment. The aristocracy even goes to the afterlife, seizing earthly values. The soul dies in such people before they are even born. However, the comedians again wittily play up the situation, depriving Bergman’s serious problematics of all their philosophical stuffing.
How may we conclude all the ugliness that has been going on for an hour and a half on screen? Certainly, with what it all began with. The whole thing will reach its farcical climax. The British achieved their goal of public outrage and insulting the feelings of some viewers (probably those who have no sense of humor) by creating an undeniable classic of the genre that hasn’t aged a bit. When you realize that the British comedians did not originally set out to convey to the viewer what the very meaning of life is in their understanding, then all you see successfully come together in a single picture of perception. There is no meaning in their film, just as there is no meaning in life itself. You just have to live it with humor. This will be seen in the last credits, when the classic intro of the Monty Pythons show together with the TV dissolves into space to the song that we are just nothing in the face of the infinite universe with its myriad stars.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (64.4 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS:X 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
English: Dolby Digital 2.0
English: DTS Mono
French: DTS Mono
German: DTS 2.0
Italian: DTS 2.0
Japanese: DTS 5.1
Spanish: DTS 2.0 Mono
English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Swedish.