Monday, 8 February 2010

He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy.

Its probably 30 years since I saw it all the way through, but it was good to see Life of Brian again at the second of my colleague's occasional series of Film and Faith Evenings. I suspect a film like this couldn't even be made today. Too many people to risk upsetting, too many fundamentalists too ready to resort to a violent and aggressive response, missing the fact that this in itself contradicts of the 'fundamentals' of the Biblical record. What struck me most was how tame it felt, certainly compared with when I first saw it on release, my home town being one of few that didn't seem to have any concerns in showing it. The 17 year old me laughed at it then, and the 47 year old me still does. It is a beautiful looking Film, Director Terry Jones wanted it to look like a French Art Film, and succeeded.

If the Pythons had known in advance how some Church hierarchies would respond, the film's gentle criticism of organised religion and of the human need for a Messiah would surely have been much stronger. As it is, it's the political scene of the 1970s that is really in view, as Reg and his anarcho-syndicalist collective of Judean Revolutionaries continue to miss the point. While the closing scene's cheery stoicism, Always looking on the Bright Side of Life, is certainly not the Gospel understanding of Death and Resurrection, there was one truly chilling scene that could not have been intended at the time - the crack suicide squad of the Judean Popular Front, and their mass suicide, while Brian looks helplessly on. In 1979 we laughed at the idea of a political suicide, Kamikaze pilots notwithstanding, little knowing what the suicide bombers of the 21st Century would bring. Ironically perhaps, but the Life of Brian stands now for a slightly old fashioned understanding of human nature, a gentle reminder that we can and should do all this living thing a lot better.