Program to Movie Night’s Monty Python

The following are some background facts and trivia from an academic take on “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, presented by the CSULA Philosophy Club in Room KH B3018, 6:10pm – 10:00pm Wednesday, April 28th.

The movie’s setting is in the Province of Judea c. 30 CE, the same timeframe as the classic films Ben Hur and the Robe. Political rule of this region was maintained under an “ethnarch” , where an area was governed by military prefects. Of these the most famous is Pontius Pilate. When Herod the Great died, Augustus divided the kingdom between the three surviving sons, Herod Antipas (Galilee), Herod Philip I (Golan Heights), and Herod Archelaus (Samaria, Judea, and Edom) .

The Zealots were an anti-Romanist group who sought to incite the people of Iudaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the holy land by force of arms .

“Life of Brian” was filmed in Tunisia and released in 1979. Directed by Terry Jones and featuring John Cleese, the most vocal of the comedy troupe, Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969 to 1974).

The film exhibits the comedy troupe’s penchant for being drawn to the taboo nature of mocking established religion. And there was quite a bit of backlash for it. Note the difference between blasphemy and heresy: blasphemy is considered the contradicting of teachings of the church, whereas heresy is taking something true and saying it is something else. Monty Python is not challenging the doctrines of the church, but its practitioneers. The group is also parodying misrepresentations in religion. Note the stoning scene involving the use of the supposedly sacred word “Jehovah!”

From Wikipedia: “The alleged representation of Christ proved controversial. Protests against the film were organised based on its perceived blasphemy. On its initial release in the UK, the film was banned by several town councils – some of which had no cinemas within their boundaries, or had not even seen the film for themselves.”

The film makes fun of the ancient world, its mythology, culture and history, all of which have been the subject of cinema practically since the invention of the medium.

These notes were compiled from from the Spring 2008 course CLAS 380 Myth, History and the Movies, Department of Classics, SFSU, Dr. Michael Anderson.


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