Apr. 04, 2012 - Issue #859: Spring Style
The Life of Brian
A zealous Zionist leader of a suicide-squad, Otto (Eric Idle), sporting thin moustache and German accent, a swastika-tipped Star of David on his chest and his spiked helmet, talks to Brian (mistaken for the Messiah) about a long-awaited arrival. In the rough outtake, only on the Criterion edition, Otto declares, "The Leader will save Israel by ridding it of the scum of non-Jewish people, making it pure—no foreigners, no riff-raff, no gypsies," offering a "Hail!" salute.
The screenplay for the film, which opened five months after the landmark Israel-Egypt peace treaty brokered by Jimmy Carter, had more. Otto's Hitler-ness continued: "We need more living room. We must move into the traditionally Jewish areas of Samaria. ... we can put [the Samaritans] in little camps. And after Samaria we must move into Jordan and create a great Jewish state that will last a thousand years."
Carter has since criticized Israel as an apartheid state for its treatment of Palestinians, but the Pythons aimed further earlier, perhaps riffing off the 1975 UN Resolution declaring the nationalist ideology "a form of racism." They draw racial extremism- and purity-parallels between Zionism, which had pushed for a Jewish homeland, and Nazism, whose anti-Semitic genocide ensured that homeland's formation.
Accounts conflict over why Otto's appearances were cut. Terry Gilliam thought they should stay. But test-screenings apparently confirmed what some other Pythons, including Jones, felt—the scenes slowed the story. Historian David Nash, though, in Blasphemy in the Christian World: A History, claims Otto was crucified "on the cutting-room floor, in the interests of smoothing the way for the film's distribution in America."
Sun, Apr 8 – Mon, Apr 9
Directed by Terry Jones
Metro Cinema at The Garneau
Originally released: 1979
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy