Three years ago Martin Budich, the organizer of a group called Religious Freedom in the Ruhr , decided to put on a public viewing of the comedy classic Monty Python's Life of Brian on Good Friday in the western city of Bochum.
three years later Budich is preparing to face the highest court in the land for the simple act of showing a film which is rated suitable for children in most countries. Budich explained to The Local.
Showing the film
was a deliberate act of rebellion against the holiday laws which every German state has, and which prevent people from partying - or showing films that are not approved by the state - on religious holidays.
On Thursday the
final obstacle to taking this law to the constitutional court was removed, after the High Court in North Rhine-Westphalia upheld a ruling from a lower court that ordered Budich to pay a 100 euro fine.
He can now appeal the decision in Federal
Constitutional Court which will have to consider whether the prohibition of showing the movie was in breach of Budich's constitutional rights.
Monty Python star Terry Jones has revealed he would shy away from making the film Life of Brian today, because of a resurgence in religious belief. He said:
At the time, religion seemed to be on the back
burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey. It's come back with a vengeance and we'd think twice about making it now.
Jones directed and acted in the 1979 film, which sparked accusations of blasphemy. Opponents of the
now-celebrated comedy claimed it made fun of Jesus.
Comment: A resurgence in religious belief?
There's hardly much evidence 'of a resurgence in religious belief'. The opposite is clearly the
case. However the sharp decline in belief must be making the christians feel a little insecure. Perhaps in the days of Life of Brian, the christians generally were confident enough that such a minor jibe could hardly shake their religion. Now they are a
little beleaguered, and must feel that they have to be more willing to fight for the survival of their cause.
Then of course there's the tension with other religions. And there its the authorities who feel that they must calm any
tensions by trying to censor anything that could add to that tension.
Either way, it would appear that Terry Jones is right, and Life of Brian could never be filmed today.
Monty Python's Life of Brian premiered in America in August 1979 and immediately caused a brouhaha. The Rabbinical Alliance declared the film foul, disgusting and blasphemous . The Lutheran Council described it as profane parody . Not to be outdone, the Catholic Film Monitoring Office made it a sin even to see the film. Audiences, however, loved it, making Brian the most successful British movie in North America that year.
To counter the mounting protests in Britain, an ingenious advertising campaign was launched featuring the mothers of John Cleese and Terry Gilliam. Muriel Cleese said that if the film didn't do well, and as her son was on a percentage, she may
very well be evicted from her nice retirement home – and that the move might kill her. She won an award for the ad.
Mary Whitehouse failed to prove that the film was blasphemous, particularly since Christ and Brian are distinctly shown as
different people. Nevertheless, a number of local councils banned it – including some that didn't even have a cinema. The result was coach parties being organised in places such as Cornwall (where it was banned) to cinemas in Exeter (where it wasn't).
The Swedish marketed the film as so funny it was banned in Norway .
Time can be rather harsh on comedies, but Life of Brian holds up very well after 30 years, and still has the power to shock. However, current tastes and
sensitivities make it highly unlikely that a comedy group would even attempt making a film like Brian today.
For almost 30 years, one of the classic comedy films has been unofficially banned in Glasgow, after it was branded blasphemous by councillors on its release.
Monty Python's Life of Brian will finally get a screening after it was
granted a licence by the city council – the last of 39 across the UK that imposed the initial ban.
The stars of the film, including Michael Palin, John Cleese and Terry Jones, will be invited to a special screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre in
In sharp contrast to the furore of 29 years ago, the city council's licensing committee did not receive a single objection to the application heard yesterday.
The move was welcomed by film experts for bringing an end to a
Allison Gardner, head of cinemas at the GFT, said: The film has been widely available to the general public on video and DVD and has been screened on terrestrial television. None of these events has caused
widespread offence, or in any way destroyed the sanctity of the Church or undermined its place in our wider society. I believe the film is seen as an affectionate and inspired depiction of the life of Jesus from a perspective that is humorous, rather
But Christian nutters said the decision to grant the film a 15 certificate was a reflection of declining standards in society, and called it a sad day.
Stephen Green, director of the radical campaign group
Christian Voice, which has organised protests against shows such as Jerry Springer: The Opera , said: We know Glasgow was the last place in the country to keep the ban in place, as the only other area, Aberystwyth, had a screening a couple of
months ago. It is a bit of a shame it's now been granted a licence in Glasgow, but it shows how much we have let standards slip.
Comment: Scotland 'Rogered'
July 2009, thanks to Chris
Life of Brian was shown on the welsh language channel S4C when it was banned in Swansea and Aberystwyth sure that the same would be the case in Scotland being it was shown on channel 4.