Film: Monty Python's: The Meaning of Life
aka: The Meaning Of Life
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
arrived in 1983 as the last hurrah of the complete six-man troupe, directed by Terry Jones. The film marked the troupe's return to sketch-based comedy after two films that followed a linear plot. The film's sketches are loosely connected and arranged by the stages of human life.
The movie opens with the unrelated note Terry Gilliam
-directed short film "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", the tale of accountant pirates who take on Wall Street. From there, we move on to the film proper, a series of sketches purporting to examine the Meaning of Life, arranged from "The Miracle of Birth" to "Death". But even this structure allows for stops examining "The Third World" and "Live Organ Transplants".
This is notable as by far
the grossest of the Python films, via such highlights as the aforementioned "Live Organ Transplants" sketch and the restaurant scene featuring Mr. Creosote. That didn't stop it from receiving the Grand Prize of the Jury award at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, however.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life provide examples of the following tropes:
Welcome to "The Middle Of The Tropes!"
- Major Injury Underreaction: A British army officer has a rather blasé attitude about waking up with a leg missing: "Stings a bit." So does the doctor examining him:
"Yes, well, this is nothing to worry about [...] Yes, there's a lot of it about. Probably a virus. Uh, keep warm, plenty of rest, and if you're playing football or anything, try and favor the other leg."
- Meatgrinder Surgery: Two "surgeons" forcibly harvest organs from a man just because he's got an organ donor card. Mostly offscreen but obviously Meatgrinder Surgery.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Invoked, lampshaded:
Pakenham (Michael Palin): A tiger? In Africa?
Ainsworth (John Cleese): Well, it probably escaped from the zoo.
Pakenham: Well, I don't think that's very likely- (Ainsworth sshs him)
- And ultimately subverted: It was really two guys in a tiger costume.
- Modular Epilogue: In the video game adaptation, a series of interludes between scenes ask "moral dilemma" questions with Multiple Choice answers. At the end of the game, a woman comes on to tell you your personal, individual Meaning of Life based on your answers.
- Nipple and Dimed/Thong of Shielding: One sketch shows a man slated for execution, who chose to be chased off a cliff to his death by a thundering horde of models wearing nothing but boxing helmets, G-string panties, socks, and football cleats. Nothing is censored, either.
- No Intelligent Life Here: "Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'cause it's bugger all down here on earth!"
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: In the Private School segment, the students chat, fiddle about, and otherwise do bored teenager stuff despite the teacher's naked wife standing in front of the class and the sex that follows.
- Oh, Crap:
Fish: Oh shit, it's Mr. Creosote!
- Only Sane Man: The Grim Reaper. It takes him several minutes to impress upon the hosts and guests of a dinner party that he's not there to trim the hedge, doesn't want wine and won't discuss philosophy with them. When they finally die and follow him to the great beyond, they decide to take their cars (their ghost cars, which, like them, leave behind the original forms), causing the Reaper to do a hilarious double-take before shrugging it off and beckoning them on.
- The Oner: The scene with Gaston the waiter.
- Oop North: Parodied with the portrayal of Yorkshire.
- Organ Theft: Or at least very aggressive organ collection.
- Prolonged Prologue: "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" goes on for 15 minutes before the actual film starts.
- Racist Grandma: "You see I feel that life's a game, you sometimes win or lose. And though I might be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews!"
- Rugby Is Slaughter: A boarding school holds a rugby match pitting little boys against grown men. As if that weren't brutal enough, when a boy finally gets to make a try, a teacher trips him from the sidelines. To further underline the point, the scene segues directly into a World War One segment.
- Self-Deprecation: An Englishman's attempt to upbraid the Grim Reaper for his poor manners is met with this response:
Grim Reaper: (poking him in the eye)
Quiet! Englishmen, you're all so fucking pompous
. None of you have got any balls.
- From "Fighting Each Other":
Narrator: Democracy and humanitarianism have always been trademarks of the British Army.
Sergeant Major: Rubbish!
- Sexless Marriage: The Protestants in "The Miracle of Birth".
- Shout-Out: iOS' Siri will quote the ending if you ask what the meaning of life is.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: A military recruiter, after showing a war documentary, says, "That is why we will always need an army, and may God strike me down were it to be otherwise." Whereupon...
- Averted in the Chapel segment when the song is essentially about how they don't want to be cooked by God.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The "Galaxy Song", a cheery, happy-go-lucky tune, with vaguely upbeat lyrics about the wondrous vastness of the universe, that ends on a big downer about the lack of intelligent life on Earth. It's sung right after a scene wherein a man has his liver harvested while he's still alive. Immediately after the song finishes, his wife agrees to undergo the process herself.
- Stupid Boss: The hospital administrator in "The Miracle of Birth".
And what are you doing this morning? Obstetrician:
It's a birth. Administrator:
Ah. And what sort of thing is that
? Doctor Spenser:
Well, that's when we take a new baby out of a lady's tummy. Administrator:
Wonderful what we can do nowadays!
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: The man in the front end of the tiger costume:
"Oh come on! I mean, do we look like the sort of chaps who'd creep into a camp at night, steal into someone's tent, anaesthetise them, tissue-type them, amputate a leg and run away with it?"
- The Unreveal: Although several theories as to the "meaning of life" are given throughout the film, when the "true" answer is finally revealed at the end it's not very life-changing. And this is only a segue into a totally unrelated and tangential joke.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "Don't just stand there gawping, like you've never seen the hand of God before!"
- The schoolboys getting bored at the sight of their teacher having sex counts too.
- Visual Pun: The "Middle Age" segment mostly takes place in a recreation of a Medieval dungeon.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The Mr. Creosote scene.
- Vulgar Humor: So, so much:
- In "The Third World" segment, a slimy newborn baby drops like excrement out of a Yorkshire housewife while she's doing her chores, and hits the floor.
- Young children sing, with their parents and the entire neighbourhood, about semen and masturbation.
- A teacher and his wife having sex in front of an entire classroom, shortly after the teacher rather curtly describes foreplay.
- The unfortunate organ donor who has his liver removed, in gory detail, while he's still alive.
- During the "Galaxy Song", the standard cosmic grid morphs into a pregnant woman with legs spread, impregnated by a beam of light as sperm.
- The Noel Cowardesque "Penis Song".
- And last but certainly not least, Mr. Creosote. "Better get the bucket..."
- Walk the Plank: The "Crimson Permanent Assurance" short.
- While Rome Burns: Exaggerated in the "Zulu War" sketch. While British infantrymen are getting maimed and slaughtered left and right, the officers walk through the thick of battle completely unmolested and unfazed by the carnage. They even mutter curt excuse-mes as they pass by, and combatants on both sides make way for them.
- The X of Y