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Life of Brian

November 5, 2010

652. Life of Brian
Directed by Terry Jones
UK, 1979
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
Umpteenth viewing


Brian Cohen, a young Jew in occupied Judea, becomes involved in an anti-Roman political group. While trying to escape from Roman soldiers he poses as a speaker in a crowded market place. When people start to listen to his inane spontaneous ramblings, he is mistaken for a prophet. His popularity amongst the people grows as he is heralded as the Messiah.

Essential Scene:

The revolutionary group, The People’s Front of Judea (not to be mistaken for the Judean People’s Front), are holding a meeting. They plan a kidnap to make the Romans give in to their demands. Reg (John Cleese), Stan (Eric Idle) and Francis (Michael Palin) talk to their followers.

Reg: They’ve bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers’ fathers.

Stan: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Stan: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right, Stan. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Masked Activist: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Masked Activist: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh yeah, yeah did they gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.

Second Masked Activist: And the sanitation!

Stan: Oh yeah… sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah all right, I’ll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done…

Matthias: And the roads…

Reg: Well yes obviously the roads — the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct and the roads…

Third Masked Activist: Irrigation…

Other Masked Voices: Medicine… Education…

Reg: Yes — all right, fair enough…

Activist Near Front: And the wine… [General agreement]

Francis: Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left.

Masked Activist at Back: Public baths!

Stan: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Francis: Yes, they certainly know how to keep order — let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this. [laughter]

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Masked Activist: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh Peace?! Shut up!


There’s a reason why Life of Brian tops numerous comedy lists. It’s a brilliant slice of British comedy with a biting yet entertaining satire of organized religion, so-called revolutionary politics and egotistical biblical epics. It’s ridiculous, it’s silly, but it makes total sense. It’s Monty Python in other words; and that in itself is a reason to see it.

The only thing that is rather sad while watching it is the realisation that the subjects they satirized haven’t changed: Pointless politics that are all pontificating and no action, and archaic forms of torture that shouldn’t have a place in modern society but are still practised. As a result, Life of Brian is as relevant as ever, despite being over 30 years old.

Tip: Watch out for cameos from Spike Milligan and the film’s financier, George Harrison.

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