Headscratchers: Monty Python's Life of Brian
Where is Jesus?
We know it's 33 AD because of the caption at the beginning. It must be passover because Pilate is setting a prisoner free. But according to the Gospel, Barabbas was set free that year, not Brian. Furthermore, when Brian arrives at Golgotha, Jesus should be there! We never see Jesus brought before Pilate, he isn't being crucified at Golgotha, and he isn't even offered as one of the prisoners to be freed. This would all be well and good except it's 33 AD, chosen specifically because it was traditionally the year Jesus was crucified. So where is he? Why was he not brought before Pilate, why wasn't he at Golgotha? Passover comes but once a year.
To head off any responses to this effect: We do see him giving the sermon on the mount at the beginning, that's not the headscratcher. The headscratcher is that he isn't present at the time and place he's supposed to have died, and Pilate, who is supposed to have given him 39 lashes, is otherwise occupied during that same very limited timeframe.
- Passover comes but once a year, but its also eight days long. Maybe Pilate was releasing a prisoner every day of Passover that year, or at least the first couple and last couple days, which are considered more holy than the ones in the middle? It wouldn't be historically accurate for any of several dozen reasons you could care to name, but its very, very easy to imagine a Pythonesque scenario in which somebody (probably Mr. Cheeky or someone like him) fast-talked him into it.
- Perhaps this was a year or two off from when Jesus was supposed to have been killed.
- I was under the impression that the prisoner preceding Mr. Cheeky was Jesus, included to indicate that this was indeed the date of his execution. I imagine that he wasn't included in the later scenes due to respect - can you really imagine Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, who died for our sins, etc. singing Bright Side of Life? Releasing Brian rather than Barabbas was simply so they could make a I Am Spartacus joke.
- To be honest, yes, actually. There's nothing that says our Lord and Saviour couldn't appreciate a good morale-boosting singalong.
- The Pythons wanted to avoid specifically mocking Jesus, though I don't think there's anything particularly mocking about showing him singing the song. Also, a little bit of Fridge Brilliance - the Jesus shown on the sermon at the beginning doesn't necessarily resemble Jesus besides his and beard - but there are quite a few people on the crucifixion who DO share his dark long hair and beard. Maybe he is present after all.
- Jesus is in the line of prisoners carrying crosses through the streets. When a sympathetic bystander (Terry Jones) offers to carry his cross, Jesus drops it and scarpers. This leads to the bystander saying to a soldier later "This isn't my cross!" only to be ignored.
- Hate to have to point out the obvious, but that can't be Jesus, because Jesus wouldn't do something like that.
- This is an alternate universe, differing from ours only by the addition of Brian. The Jewish authorities take no notice of the person who smashed up the temple because they are too occupied with the prophet who is attracting the crowds by denying he is the Messiah and the Romans are, likewise, too occupied trying to capture the cunning guerrilla who dared to write 'Romans Go Home' 100 times to bother about any other potential threat. So no-one bothers to arrest Jesus, which means he avoids crucifixion. Presumably, in this universe instead of Christianity we have 'Cohenity' or 'Brianity' where everyone gathers to chant "We are all individuals".
- Fridge Brilliance: in that universe, the Moral Guardians had more of a reason to protest Monty Python's Life of Brian, since it was a silly comedy making fun of a major religious founder.
- Well, simple. Brian is Barabbas, the Bible got the name wrong.
- Alternatively to both of the above, the Bible of the universe this movie takes place simply identifies Brian as being the person who was freed rather than being Barabbas.
- Maybe Mr. Cheeky is Barabbus, and the Romans just didn't want to admit their mistake. "I thought you were releasing Brian?" "No, sir, you asked for Barabbus, I remember it clearly."
- I really like that idea, but there's another possibility as well...recall how Mr. Cheeky is still trying to argue that he's not Brian, even as they're taking him down off the cross? Obviously, at some point, he succeeded in convincing someone, got happily re-crucified, and then (since they still couldn't determine who Brian was) Pilate had to ask the crowd for another person to be freed. Barabbus was lucky his name had an R in it....
- The obvious answer to the original question is that Brian was crucified in a different place than Jesus. The Romans had so many crucifixions that year that they had to use alternate sites for some of them...including Jesus and the two thieves.
Brian is not Jesus
- This is more of an audience reaction JBM, since the movie itself is awesome. It REALLY bugs me when people, whether religious zealots OR smug atheists, try to say that Brian was supposed to be Jesus. Within the movie itself, Monty Python makes it VERY obvious that Brian is NOT Jesus:
- 1) Jesus is born in a stable near the one Brian is born in, and after the case of mistaken identity, the 3 wise men go to the correct stable.
- Some people complain about this bit, saying its an insult to the Wise Men to think them capable of error like that.
- 2) Brian attends the Sermon on the Mount with his mother; some of the others in the back of the crowd mishear the Beatitudes (did he say "blessed are the Greek?!").
- 3) When the ex-leper is begging for alms and Brian asks who cured him, he replies "Jesus did, sir". The whole joke of that scene was how Jesus took away his livelihood, since the man only knew how to beg.
- On top of that, I hate it when they say "but if he wasn't Jesus, then why was he crucified at the end?" Um, Artistic License - History. Crucifixion was a VERY common method of execution used by the Romans (and others), not to mention the final shot of the film showed just how many people were being crucified on that very same day. Were ALL OF THEM JESUS?!?!!!!11oneone
- "I'm Jesus, and so is my wife!"
- Also, Brian was crucified by being tied to the cross; Jesus was crucified by being nailed to one. These were different forms of crucifixion. The Brian version killed one with thirst and heat, and was, despite the less gory appearance, in fact very cruel as one was just stuck there dying for several days - that much for the movie ending...
- Actually they were the same. The difference was whether or not their feet were supported.
- Although if you look closely, they do have nails through their hands (... not wrists) too. The thing that bugs me is that you can see them standing on little platforms rather than hanging there. Surely they could have put up with being actually crucified for their art? Just a little bit... to make it more realistic... I had assumed the ropes were there for the same reason, to stop them from actually dying.
- If they hadn't any support for the legs, the nails would rip the hands' tissue, which means they wouldn't stay crucified. Probably same reason why they both tied and nailed the hands to the cross. In fact, every crucifix has a little platform under Jesus feet.
- Nope. I've never seen a crucifix pendant that had the foot thing instead of the pointed-down toes, and even the only huge, church-wall Jesus crucifix I've seen had the "ankles crossed, with a nail through them/the bottom of the shins" pose. I may have seen a single painting with the platform, but that's it. While common in Real Life, I've found them amazingly uncommon in depictions of the Crucifixion.
- The platform isn't to stop tissue from tearing, it's to prevent death within minutes instead of days. With arms tied like that and the body dangling, it isn't possible to breath in and people would asphyxiate. It's possible to hold yourself in that position for longer if you have the endurance only because in that situation the muscles are tensed and the support is coming from the trunk, rather than being hung by outspread arms.
- Brian isn't supposed to literally be Jesus within the story, but the similarities between the two characters were deliberate.
- What similarities? Other than being 2 Jewish men born in a stable during Roman occupation, the two are entirely different even just within the movie. In fact, my following examples are coming ONLY from the flick, with nothing from the Bible or any other source. Jesus is explicitly referred to as being able to work miracles (ex-leper's testimony, at least). Jesus deliberately tries to preach to people in the Sermon on the Mount and actually has a message, whereas Brian just says gibberish to fit in with the scene until the Roman soldiers leave, refusing to continue once the danger is past. If anything, and Python themselves said as much in many interviews since then, they deliberately highlighted the differences between the two in order to make it EXPLICIT that they were not lampooning Christ himself, but the way many people (some Christians included) act.
- Yes, those scenes show differences between Brian and Jesus, but they're deliberately juxtaposed so that you can see similarities as well. The point is to show Brian as a mundane version of Jesus. His life parallels Jesus's even without his intending it to and despite his lack of any claim to divinity. Jesus can perform miracles and Brian can't, but Brian's followers are just as convinced as Jesus's that he can, all evidence to the contrary. And they justify it using circular logic like "only the true messiah denies his divinity," fight over their interpretations of trivial details that don't mean anything, and so forth. It is mocking zealots for making Serious Business out of absolutely nothing, but that in itself suggests that there doesn't need to be more than absolutely nothing-the zealots will make it Serious Business anyway. The Pythons decided to throw Jesus a bone by depicting him as real and actually the son of God, but they're also saying that this doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference; he might have become the central figure of a religion even if he hadn't been special at all.
- HI, it's me, the original complainer. My complaint wasn't that Brian was similar to Jesus; it was that so many people, upon viewing the movie, think that he was supposed to literally BE Jesus, even though it's very clear that they are two separate people. I was complaining about how most Viewers Are Morons and it ended being the case that most repliers here are Completely Missing the Point of my original post.
- Probably because you responded to somebody pointing out that the characters are deliberately similar by arguing that they're not. But whatever.
- Monty Python themselves argue over every little thing in this movie. They wrote it together, yet they still can't reach a consensus on what they were actually saying! It's almost as funny as the movie itself.
I think he said 'Blessed are the Chessemakers'.
What's so special about the Cheesemakers?
It's not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.
- So when the crowd says that "only the true Messiah denies his divinity", Brian tries to turn this around by saying he is the Messiah, only for them to just believe that. Wouldn't the best response have been to just ask anyone (or everyone) in the crowd if they were the Messiah? (of course, given the idea of the scene, the crowd would probably have just responded by saying they weren't and not getting what that then implies, or coming up with some stupid reason why asking if someone else is the Messiah means you are the Messiah).
- What is the Campaign for Free Galilee doing in Jerusalem? They should have been trying to kidnap Herodias.
- Maybe their leader is even less competent than Reg and accidentally brought them to the wrong palace in the wrong country.