In Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), director Terry Jones illustrates that religion is just as ridiculous as humanity itself.
Religion is the means to fulfill society’s nature to fall into groupthink. As Brian becomes the makeshift Messiah, Terry Jones distinctly separates Brian’s one shots with the shots of his followers in order to portray the mob as a singular mind. Brian and his followers are rarely presented in the same shot. This separation is what first presents Brian’s individuality in juxtaposition with the single mind of his countless followers. By clearly separating the shots of the Messiah and the shots of his followers, it becomes clear that there is no real connection between the two. The people of Jerusalem simply needed someone to follow and Brian was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Religion can be just another outlet for entertainment and theater. From the beginning Terry Jones presents preaching as a show. A close up of a preacher on a hill slowly zooms out to eventually reveal Brian in the back struggling to hear the performance. The close up on the longhaired, peace loving, baggy clothing covered preacher (Jesus Christ), reveals the true intention of religion. As Jones zooms out, it becomes clear that the audience is really just interested in entertainment. In the presence of the (so called) real Messiah the masses are still more interested in the daily stoning. As Brian is forced onto the street he is confronted with a street of prophets; each with their own audience. Jones’ Messiah montage demonstrates how this street is no different from a street of travelling performers. Each spiritualist attempts to stand out to attract the largest audience. This epitomizes humanities’ true nature. We all want to be led down the right path, and yet the most appealing path is the the one with the best sales team.
In an effort to understand an absurd world, absurd stories emerge as a way to explain it. Terry Jones thrusts alien life into a 33 A.D. story in an effort to demonstrate that inexplicable events require an explanation for humanity to be satisfied. As audience members, we may be tempted to think that explaining absurdity with more absurdity is merely a thing of the past. Yet as Jones randomly inserts flying extra-terrestrials, our first thought is a demand for an explanation. We are given no explanation. This perfectly exemplifies how all humans will attempt to explain the unexplainable. Just as we are unable to explain the aliens, the people of Judea are incapable of explaining the appearance of the Juniper bush or the mysterious gourd. Suddenly we become just as blind as Brian’s followers. Terry Jones uses the aliens to explain that it is not religion itself that makes people believe anything, rather it is humanities’ thirst for some sort of answer that makes us believe even the seemingly absurd.
The primary goal of this film is to make people laugh. It is through this laughter that Terry Jones puts everything into perspective. In the end we all end up dead no matter what, so as we hang dying on the cross, we might as well sing our hearts out. It is unclear if religion and humanity will always stick together. However, it has become clear that religion is a reflection of both the good and terrible aspects of human nature. Monty Python effectively parodies the enigma of religion in Life of Brian, but in the end we are content with being serenaded by a chorus of crucified men.