Now, I have talked about my passion for comedy before, but I have not really included it among my blog posts (with the exception of Anchorman and perhaps even Forrest Gump). I find that it’s difficult to really analyze films of comedy simply because they rarely have a deeper meaning. However today I will pay tribute to the knights who solely say “Ne” and the killer rabbit, and to the British comedic geniuses behind these creations: the group known as Monty Python. In this particular case, the famous Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Throughout the years, I have developed a strong appreciation for silly humor. In particular, silliness displayed by the Brits. And what better way to discuss British silliness than to talk about works like The Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and of course the musings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Monty Python is the epitome of British humor and quite frankly I feel as though it has generally gone under appreciated. The combination of political satire and absurdity puts a sophisticated flare on stupidity, as contradictory as that sounds. So if you don’t really know what I mean when I say “British humor” be wary: it is not a taste everyone can appreciate.
Early on in the film. King Arthur (Graham Chapman) sets out on a quest to find the Holy Grail, and gain followers as his quest continued. Initially, he is accompanied by his faithful lackey, Patsy (Terry Gilliam) and travels without a horse across the country of England. To compensate for his lack of an equine addition he has Patsy hit two coconuts together to simulate the sound of hoof steps as they continue forward. At one point they come across two peasants apparently digging in mud for no apparent reason, and King Arthur attempts to address one of them by saying “Old Woman”. It will probably be easier if I just include the beginning of the conversation for humor’s sake:
King Arthur: Old woman.
King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
Dennis: I’m 37.
King Arthur: What?
Dennis: I’m 37. I’m not old.
King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”.
Dennis: Well you could say “Dennis”.
King Arthur: I didn’t know you were called Dennis.
Dennis: Well you didn’t bother to find out did you?
King Arthur: I did say sorry about the “old woman”, but from behind you looked…
Dennis: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.
King Arthur: Well I am king.
Dennis: Oh, king eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.
Firstly, this conversation is absolutely ridiculous in itself. Second there is a great amount of irony in the fact that the working class peasant digging in mud is more well educated than the King of England. Third, the political satire behind this conversation is incredibly overwhelming. The situation in itself is not only humorous, it is also contains a certain degree of intellectual value.
A unique quality of this film is that many of the actors played multiple characters. The actor playing the most characters is Michael Palin, playing 12 throughout the course of the film. The comedic troupe played a majority of the characters in the film, even though it was quite an extensive list of characters. It was also an incredibly low-budget film, which added to the explanation of the lack of extra actors. In fact, the budget for the film was so low that they needed to use cardboard cutouts of castles when filming the scenes from a distance. Also, the profits made from a Pink Floyd album went to fund the production of the film because the group was so fond of Monty Python. With much needed financial support, this film eventually became a great success that is still cherished by many of today’s youth.
Now, it’s hard to take any film seriously that consists of scenes involving a disembodied knight dismissing his lack of a limb as “just a flesh wound” or a woman confirmed as being a witch simply because she weighed as much as a duck, but the film isn’t meant to be taken seriously. On the contrary, there is so much absurdity that it is impossible to take this film seriously, and its merit springs from its entertainment value as, rather simply put, a silly film. So be bold, and try this film out for the sake of silliness itself. And that is why it is so magnificently different from many of the other films that I have discussed thus far. Look past its low budget and cheap props, just to embrace how much they could actually accomplish with it.