The Life of Brian – Terry Jones

The Life of Brian caused quite a controversy upon its release to the public.  The film was even banned in several countries for it was thought to be blasphemous and out to mock the suffering of Jesus.  However that is not what the film sought out to do, it was not intended to destroy anyone’s faith.  The film did take a satirical approach to the Jesus tale but it does not blasphemously criticize the God that Christians and Jews worship.  However it does criticize the practices of modern organized religion making the film heretical and obviously satirical, but not it is in no way blasphemous.  The scene on the Mount when Jesus, played by Kenneth Colley, addresses the Beatitudes does not depict Jesus in a way that mocks the biblical figure (6:47).  On the contrary Jesus is played straight and portrayed with respect.  Colley does not speak in a satirical manner in this scene, he speaks sincerely and with conviction.  Even the music and lighting of the scene convey the importance of Jesus’s character. The scene opens with music that is strong and powerful as the camera pans up the hill to where Jesus stands.  When Jesus does appear he is the central figure and there is a light that surrounds him that shows the genuine aura around him (7:28).  This scene in a way confirms that the films intention was a blasphemous one but rather a satiric social comment on modern religion pratices.  The director, Terry Jones, described it best when he was quoted saying: “the film is not blasphemous because it does not touch on belief at all.  It is heretical, because it touches on dogma and the interpretation of belief, rather than belief itself”.  The scene in the film after  Brian has just spends the night with Judith shows the films motive in commenting on the practice of modern religion (16:15 Part II).  The crowd hangs on Brian’s every word and blindly worships the mistaken Messiah.

The most obviously controversial scene is what a doubt the crucifixion in the ending of the film.  This scene could be interpreted as mocking Jesus’s suffering because the film treats it in a very casual way.  For instance when Brian is captured and incarcerated by the Romans he turns to one of his fellow cellmates and asks what will happen to him.  The cellmate replies “Oh, you’ll probably get away with a crucifixion” and this gives the audience the impression that the punishment was not  is not that bad; as if that is not the worst thing that could happen.  Another example would be the the moment right after Brian is crucified and one of his fellow suffers turns to him and says “See, not so bad once you’re up!” (35:25 Part II)  Again the intention is not to be blasphemous but rather to use this sarcastic telling of Jesus’s story to comment on how modern religion glorifies and turns the crucifixion into an icon.

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One Response to “The Life of Brian – Terry Jones”

  1.   David Richter Says:

    I love the quote from Terry Jones, where does it come from?

    Excellent and interesting response.

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