By KJ Hamilton
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life – dir Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam – 1983
The last film from the British comedy troupe, this film explores live from birth to death in a series of vignettes.
Part I: The Miracle of Birth: A hysterical satire of hospital politics that involves a woman about to give birth and a machine that goes ‘ping.’ The doctors insist on having a room full of unnecessary machinery, including the most expensive machine in the entire hospital just to impress the hospital administrator. It’s entirely necessary, of course, although no one is quite sure what these machines do—except for the one that goes ‘ping’ of course. The Miracle of Birth Part 2: The Third World: This part explores the other side of the coin by visiting a British Roman Catholic family who must have a child every time they have sex. So, their home is overflowing with children and they spill out onto the street as the people sing “Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.”
Part II: Growth and Learning: Professor Humphrey and his wife demonstrate intercourse for a room full of private school British boys on the verge of puberty. What more needs to be said?
Part III Fighting Each Other: This part is three different segments. The only thing that all the parts have in common is that they’re all set in the military. The first segment features what’s left of a platoon trying to praise their commander in the middle of a battle. The second segment starts off with an entire regiment preparing to march. The Sergeant Major asks if anyone has anything else they’d rather be doing and one-by-one summarily dismisses them to spend time with family, read a book, or see a movie. The third segment depicts the British engaged in a battle in Africa. The officers are untouched, while their men fall around them. They are shocked to discover that one of the officers has had his leg cut off during the night as he slept. That’s more pressing than caring for the dead and wounded men.
Part IV Middle Age: The point of this segment: in middle age, you cannot hold or carry an interesting conversation—even if someone gives you a topic to talk about.
Part V Live Organ Transplants: Yeah, it’s better to wait until you no longer need to use your organs.
Part VI The Autumn Years: So, you eat and eat until you can barely walk. Then, you puke it all up, and refill. And, eventually it’s the after-dinner mint that does you in.
Part VIB The Meaning of Life: “…love everyone, try to make everyone happy, and bring peace and contentment everywhere you go.” Just don’t become a waiter.
Part VII Death: Canned salmon can kill you. And, when you die, Heaven is a nightclub where everyday is Christmas and all of the women have exposed breasts.
So, only one question is left: what, exactly, is the meaning of life? It’s different for everyone, as we all have different purposes in this lifetime. As funny as it sounds, the Python troupe got it right: every sperm is sacred because it creates life and the opportunity to learn, love and grow. There might be hiccups—or massive vomiting sessions—along the way, but in the end we will understand our place in the universe.Of course, this film really doesn’t help to understand one’s place in the universe at all. In fact, it makes it a point to illustrate just how insignificant we are compared to the universe (There’s something hysterical about a Man In Pink popping out of a refrigerator to sing about the vast universe and how one woman’s liver and live are so small in comparison).
The bottom line is that life is what you make of it. So, its meaning is subjective; which is why people can throw in fat men who vomit and machines that go ‘ping’. What is the meaning of life in The Meaning of Life? Life is a series of vignettes. Sometimes they don’t make sense, but it might be hysterical to watch. And, sometimes you end up with a bucket of vomit over your head. At least you had the chance to live. That’s important.