Nonsensical, silly, ludicrous and utterly random – that is why I love this film. I revel in its absurdity every time I watch it. I’ve seen it so many times, that I’ve even tried it in Japanese, delighting in the discovery that the holy grail was none other than the holy sake cup.
As we know the Python boys to be, this film is thoroughly ridiculous, yet utter genius. It cleverly deconstructs the making of film as barriers are broken between the audience and the world of the film’s story right from the start with lamentable legends that “apologise for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible have been sacked.”
Drawing inspiration from Arthurian legends and Greek myths, it assaults both your reason and your senses – a particularly fun example of the latter evidenced in the epilepsy-inducing opening credits. This is English history as it’s never been told before.
There could be no better study of comedy than this film, because along with its deconstruction it is also an homage to the genre. Tributes to The Goon Show, for example, are depicted in the clacking of coconuts to create the illusion of riding horses, a fact which is blatantly pointed out by the characters themselves. It doesn’t stop there, and we are joyously lambasted with musical numbers, redundant conversation, God, shrubbery, an evil bunny and knights who no longer say “ni”.
But all this stuff and nonsense is just a clever disguise for its condemnation of English history and society, and particularly its nasty class divisions. Disguise is not actually accurate as it’s rather obvious what the film is trying to say and if you miss it then you must be as idiotic and ignorant a sot as King Arthur.
As it deplores society, pointing out its faults and foibles and exposing its superficial hierarchies it remains funny, entertaining and preposterous – hammering home its point all the harder for its freedom in being able to be as blatant as it is. So for all its silliness in form and structure, its content makes it a daring and illuminating slice of commentary that is truly comedy at its best.
Originally published on Amazing Picture Box.