The Meaning of Life

From Academic Kids

This page is about the Monty Python film; for the philosophical concept, see meaning of life.
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The Meaning of Life was a Monty Python comedy film made in 1983. This film was essentially a series of comedy skits about the various stages of life - in some ways a return to the sketch comedy format of the original television series.

The resulting film is regarded as a little uneven, though which particular scenes are thought funny varies from person to person. Some more generally praised scenes include:

  • The Crimson Permanent Assurance, originally conceived by Terry Gilliam as a 6-minute animated sequence, 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 traditional office clerks rebel against their cold, efficient corporate masters at The Very Big Corporation of America, 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. There are echoes of Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981) and the 1950's Hollywood movie The Crimson Pirate.
  • The Miracle of Birth, Part I, is the opening scene of the film proper, where a woman in labour is ignored by doctors, nurses, Japanese tourists, and eventually the hospital's administrator (Michael Palin) as they drag in more and more elaborate equipment, including "the machine that goes PING!".
  • The Miracle of Birth part II, which shows a Catholic family living in the Third World (Yorkshire), who sell their 63 children for medical experiments, because they do not believe in birth control. The skit culminates in the musical number "Every Sperm is Sacred"[1] (, a parody combining "Consider Yourself" from the musical Oliver! with the ragamuffin dancing orphans of Annie, released the previous year. The segment satirises the Catholic Church's attitudes to contraception and masturbation and follows with a burlesque of Protestant tolerance, always available but somehow never used.
  • Growth and Learning, in which a group of schoolboys watch in boredom as their teacher (John Cleese) demonstrates sexual techniques with his wife.
  • Fighting Each Other, in which World War I soldiers preparing to charge to their deaths present a few little gifts in appreciation of their commander, including a grandfather clock and a cake.
  • The Middle of the Film, in which Palin, in drag, introduces Find The Fish.
  • Find The Fish, a sendup of surreal art house films, in which a drag queen (Graham Chapman), a gangly playboy, and an elephant-headed butler (in fact dressed in the costume of a troll from Time Bandits) ponder the location of a fish. The living room set was actually part of the operations floor at the former Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth.
  • Middle Age, in which a husband and wife (Palin and Eric Idle) make a valiant attempt to discuss Philosophy they have ordered from a menu of conversations provided them in a restaurant where Hawaiian food is served in an authentic medieval dungeon atmosphere.
  • Live Organ Transplants, in which an organ donor card holder (Gilliam) has his organs forcibly removed in his own front room.
  • The Galaxy Song, in which a man in a pink suit (Idle) emerges from Mrs. Brown (Terry Jones)'s refrigerator to sing her a song about the wonders of the universe, all in an attempt to convince her to make an immediate liver donation.
  • A Noel Cowardesque fop (Idle) performs a song about the penis.
  • Mr. Creosote, in which the eponymous gourmand, an impossibly fat man (Jones), waddles into a decorous restaurant, swears at the host (Cleese), vomits copiously, eats an enormous meal while vomiting into buckets, and finally — after being persuaded to eat one last "wafer-thin mint" by the impeccable French host — explodes, showering the restaurant with offal. The camera then pans over to waiter Gaston (Idle), who breaks the fourth wall to lead the camera out of the restaurant, through the countryside, to the house where he was born, where he states that he was told by his mother to try to bring cheer to the world and make people happy, which led to his decision to become a waiter.
  • Social Death, in which a group of snobs at an isolated country house are visited by the Grim Reaper (Cleese), and spend a lot of time arguing with him before finally being persuaded to leave the mortal coil.
  • Christmas in Heaven as a night club act performed by a Barry Manilow-like lounge singer (Chapman with a curly wig and dental prosthetics).
  • The End of the Film in which the presenter from The Middle of the Film (Palin in drag again) concludes the film by reading out "the meaning of life", then announces "and, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, is the only way, these days, to get the jaded, video-sated public off their fucking arses and back in the sodding cinema."

Because the film was not intended for television, some scenes shows a much more black humour than the Monty Python TV series (for example Mr Creosote or Human Organ Transplantation sketch).

In 2004 a "special edition" DVD was released with director's commentary, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes documentaries, both real and spoof.

During the title sequence, the title of the movie is first written as "The Meaning of Liff", and is corrected in a second by a lightning strike. This appears to allude to the humorous dictionary Meaning of Liff (by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd), released in the same year as the movie.

Ireland banned the film on original release, like it did The Life of Brian, but later rated it 15 when it was released on video.

In Britain, it was rated 18 when released in the cinema and on its first release on video, but was re-rated 15 in 2000.

External links


Monty Python Missing image

Members Graham ChapmanJohn CleeseTerry GilliamEric IdleTerry JonesMichael Palin
Other Contributors Carol ClevelandNeil InnesConnie Booth
Films & TV Series Monty Python's Flying CircusAnd Now For Something Completely DifferentMonty Python and the Holy GrailMonty Python's Life of BrianMonty Python Live at the Hollywood BowlThe Meaning of Life
fr:Monty Python, le sens de la vie

ja:人生狂騒曲 es:El sentido de la vida it:Monty Python - Il senso della vita sv:Meningen med livet (film)


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