The Meaning of Life



Monty Python's The Meaning of Life is a comedy film/musical made in 1983 by Monty Python. This film was essentially a series of comedy skits and about the various stages of life — in some ways a return to the sketch comedy format of the original television series. It was also the last of the Monty Python films.

The film is conveniently divided into chapters, though the chapters themselves often contain several more-or-less unrelated (often unconnected) sketches and bits.

* The Crimson Permanent Assurance, a short introductory film directed by Terry Gilliam. Originally conceived by Gilliam as a 6-minute animated sequence in the middle of the film (at the end of Part V), then later expanded to a 16-minute live-action piece, to the point where it no longer fit into the framework of the film and became a pre-movie short film in its own right. In an early satire of globalization, elderly office clerks rebel against their cold, efficient corporate masters at 'The Permanent Assurance Company', commandeer their building and turn it into a pirate ship, raiding financial districts in numerous big cities before falling off the edge of the world.
* The film proper opens with the six Pythons playing fish in a tank, who engage in a brief philosophical conversation. The opening credits roll, with Eric Idle singing the song "The Meaning of Life" over animation by Gilliam.
* "Part I: The Miracle Of Birth", involves a woman in labour who is ignored by doctors (Cleese & Chapman), nurses, and eventually the hospital's administrator (Palin) as they drag in more and more elaborate equipment, including 'the machine that goes PING!'. This scene is based on the argument about the technologicalisation of the birth process.
* "The Miracle Of Birth - Part II: The Third World", which shows a Catholic family (Palin and Jones) living in 'the Third World' (Yorkshire), who, because they do not believe in any form of birth control, can no longer afford to feed their children. All 63 children are being sold for medical experiments. The skit culminates in the musical number "Every Sperm is Sacred". The segment satirises the Catholic Church's attitudes to contraception and masturbation, and is followed by a burlesque of Protestant tolerance, always available but somehow never used. While the Protestants are talking, the children can be seen in the background walking out of the door and down the street. Once the actors walked off the camera, they would go around the back of the set and walk out of the door all over again, so as to make it appear that there are more children.
* "Part II: Growth And Learning", in which a group of religious schoolboys attend a mass (conducted by Palin) entitled "Oh Lord, Please Don't Burn Us". In a subsequent class, they watch in boredom as their teacher (Cleese) demonstrates sexual techniques with his wife (played by Patricia Quinn). The ending of this scene overtly compares sports to war.
* "Part III: Fighting Each Other", in which a First World War officer (Palin) attempting to rally his men to find cover during an attack is hindered by their insistence on celebrating his birthday, complete with presents, gift vouchers and a cake. This leads into a lecture on the positives of the military, and a drill sergeant leading his men marching up and down the square
* There follows a long sketch (still in "Part III") set during the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War in Natal, in which a decimating attack by Zulus is dismissed in lieu of a far more pressing matter; one of the officers (Idle) having had a leg stolen during the night. Suspicious that a tiger might be the perpetrator, despite being in Africa, a hunting party is formed, which later encounters two suspicious men in tiger suits who attempt (rather pathetically) to assert their innocence in the matter through a succession of increasingly feeble excuses as to why they are dressed as a tiger.
* "The Middle Of The Film", introduced by Gilliam dressed as a black man, where the viewer is invited to play (by Palin, in drag) "Find The Fish", in which a drag queen (Chapman), a gangly playboy (Jones), and an elephant-headed butler(according to the DVD, this creature was from Terry Gilliam's earlier film Time Bandits) challenge the audience to 'find the fish' in an abstract scene shot in the operations floor at the former Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth, with a slight attempt to convert it to resemble a living room. Gilliam had said this sketch was to represent the strange dreams that one has. The fish in the tank appear again, praising the sketch and discussing the progress of the film.
* "Part IV: Middle Age", in which a middle aged couple takes a vacation to a bizarre resort (including Terry Gilliam dressed in bizarre drag, and an authentic medieval dungeon with tropical music suggesting Hawaii). Having nothing to talk about, they order a conversation about the "meaning of life". Being apparently quite intellectually uncurious, they send it back, complaining "this conversation isn't very good."
* "Part V: Live Organ Transplants", in which a couple of paramedics arrive at the doorstep of a card-carrying organ donor (Gilliam) to claim his liver immediately. Later, a man in a pink suit (Idle) emerges from the refrigerator belonging to the 'donor's' wife (Jones) to sing her a song about the wonders of the universe, resulting in her realising the futility of her existence and agreeing to one of the paramedics' request for her own liver. This is followed by an attempt by the "Crimson Permanent Assurance" to take over the film proper.
* "Part VI: The Autumn Years", is introduced with a Noel Cowardesque fop (Idle) performing the song "Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?". Mr. Creosote, an impossibly fat man (Jones), waddles into a decorous restaurant, swears at the host (Cleese), and vomits copiously, into buckets if available. He eats an enormous meal, and finally — after being persuaded to eat one last wafer-thin mint — explodes, showering the restaurant with offal.
* "Part VIB: The Meaning of Life", contains two philosophical monologues. The first is delivered by a cleaning lady (played by Jones), entirely in rhyme, culminating with "I feel that life's a game, you sometimes win or lose / And though I may be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews". The second is delivered by the French waiter (Idle), who leads the camera on a long walk through the streets to the house where he grew up, and delivers his personal philosophy.
* "Part VII: Death" opens with a funeral setup. After this, we see Arthur Charles Herbert Aruncie MacAdam Jarrett, a criminal convicted of making gratuitous sexist references, killed in a manner of his choosing. He is chased of a cliff by topless women in brightly-colored crash helmets. A brief animation plays, of suicidal leaves falling off a tree leads into "Social Death", in which a group of people at an isolated country house are visited by the Grim Reaper (Cleese), who knocks on the door. When the host answers and sees the Reaper with an enormous scythe, he says, 'Is it about the hedge?' The dinner guests then spend a lot of time arguing with him before finally being persuaded to leave the mortal coil. 'Heaven' turns out to be quite similar to the resort from Part IV. When they enter, the rest of the characters from the film (the Roman-Catholic Children, the topless women, Mr. Creosote, etc.) are already seated, and all are then serenaded by the monumentally cheesy song "Christmas In Heaven", a parody of Las Vegas-style shows, complete with women wearing plastic breasts in Santa Claus outfits (the women were supposed to be topless but, according to the DVD comments, one of them refused, on the grounds that she thought her breasts were too small) and a gleaming-toothed lounge singer telling all those present that in Heaven, it's Christmas every day, forever.
* "The End Of The Film", in which Palin in drag (apparently the same character who hosted "The Middle of the Film") concludes the film by reading out 'the meaning of life'(introducing it by saying "It's nothing very special really"):

'Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.'

* Finally, the film ends with part of the theme music and title sequence from Monty Python's Flying Circus on a TV set drifting off into space, before the "Galaxy Song" begins again, and plays over the end credits.

Trivia

* The scene with The Man Who Chose His Own Death is parodied in the music video for "I see girls" by Studio B. However, in the music video they aren't topless. You can see it on YouTube.
* Because the film was not intended for television, some sketches show much more black humor than the original TV series (for example "Mr. Creosote" or "Live Organ Transplants").
* In 2004, a 'Special Edition' DVD was released, with director's commentary, deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes documentaries (both real and spoofed).
* During the title sequence, the title of the movie is first written on a stone tablet as 'The Meaning Of Liff', and is corrected in a second by a lightning strike. This appears to allude to the humorous dictionary The Meaning of Liff (by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd), released in the same year as the movie, though the Pythons say they didn't know a book existed bearing that name, though they were friendly with Adams, who even assisted Graham Chapman in writing a sketch for the final series of Flying Circus.
* Ireland banned the film on its original release, as they had treated Monty Python's Life of Brian, but later rated it 15 when it was released on video.
* In the United Kingdom it was rated 18 when released in the cinema and on its first release on video, but was re-rated 15 in 2000.
* In order to persuade Universal Studios to make the film, the Pythons wrote a poem about the script, budget and content of the film. The poem being recited by Eric Idle was featured as the introduction to the film on the special edition DVD.
* The sketch "The Man Who Chose His Own Death" is scored to music from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
* One of the plastic-breasts dancers during the song "Christmas In Heaven" is Jane Leeves, in her first screen appearance; she would go on to play Daphne Moon in the American sitcom Frasier.
* The tagline says 'It took God six days to create the Earth, and Monty Python just 90 minutes to screw it up', but the length of the film is 107 minutes. The movie has a length of 90 minutes only if The Crimson Permanent Assurance is counted as a separate 17 minute short.
* This is the last film featuring all the Pythons together as a group.
* In episode #38 (A Fish Out of Water) of Family Guy, Peter and his friends go in search of the "un-catchable" fish, Daggermouth, and run into the Strange Man with incredibly bend-y arms from The Meaning of Life.

The film opened in North America on May 1, 1983. On 257 theatres, it grossed US $1,987,853 ($7,734 per screen) in its opening weekend. It played at 554 theatres at its widest point, and its total North American gross was US $14,929,552.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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