Daily Prompt: Silver Screen
by michelle w. on March 13, 2013
Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!
Fans of my favourite film of all time ( I prefer this term to movie, even though in this the Digital Age it isn’t used so much) will know instantly from the title which onscreen behemoth I reference.Those who don’t, hang on in there. It’ll be worth your while.
This line comes early in a piece of dialogue ( well trialogue in parts) which is for me one of the most incredible passages of film. It’s a comedy essentially but here, wrapped up in the humor, is a cutting social and political narrative. I am going to write the full narrative text here with a commentary by way of my blog because it will brighten my day to review this and hopefully will give you a giggle too.
I’ll add a surprise at the end.
No peeking now. 🙂
Our traveler, whose identity we know from his garb, is on horseback ( You’re using coconuts!) and comes upon a peasant pulling a cart full of manure or filth as it becomes known.
There comes a question from our traveler, “Old woman”
The conversation continues, “Man”
“Man, Sorry.What knight lives in that castle over there?”
“I’m 37, I’m not old”
“Well I can’t just call you Man”
“Well you could say Dennis”
“I didn’t know you were called Dennis”
“You didn’t bother to find out did you?”
“I did say sorry about the old woman but from behind you….”
Interruption……..“What I object to is you automatically treat me as inferior”
Here is where the conversation really takes a turn. From a simple request about castle ownership, our traveler is about to get a whole lot more than he bargained for.
“Well I am King”
“Oh King eh? Very nice….and how do you get that eh? By exploiting the workers,by hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there’s ever going to be any progress……..”
Enter our third protagonist…a peasant woman.
“Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down here….ooh,” she notices our traveler,makes a little bow and says “How d’ya do?”
“How do you do good lady, I am Arthur King of the Britons”
Our traveler reveals his true identity at last,but we who were watching the film from the start knew that all along 😉
” Whose castle is that?” he asks, still thinking that this conversation is in his control.
“King of the who?” Comes the response.
“The Britons.” Slight exasperation in the tone now.
“Who are the Britons?”
“We all are. We are all Britons and I am your King” He says t his with an attitude suggesting, ‘isn’t this a bit obvious?”
Here we get to the core of the conversation.
“I didn’t know we had a King.I thought we were an autonomous collective”
“Your fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes…”
“Oh there you go bringing class into it again”
“Well that’s what it’s all about.If only people would…”
Our King is a little impatient to continue on his Quest, that of The Holy Grail no less.
“Please, please good people. I am in haste.Who lives in that castle?” Arthur is labouring under the misapprehension that being King might afford him some respect and control. Think again Arthur.
“No one lives there”
“Then who is your Lord?”
“We don’t have a Lord”
“What” Full exasperation now.
“I told you. We’re an anarcho-synicalist commune. We take it in turs to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.”
“…..but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting…”
“Yes I see,” Very impatient King now.
“…by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,…”
“Be quiet” King asserts himself.
Dennis continues nonetheless, “…but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major….”
“Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!” Arthur is desperate to try and get some respect here.
“Order? Who does he think he is?
“I am your king!”
“Well, I didn’t vote for you.”
“You don’t vote for kings”
“Well, how did you become King, then?”
These three lines are uttered by Terry Jones, in the guise of the peasant woman and are a classic Python ( In case you were still wondering) staple. Men as women. No one does women quite like Python and in this scene, Terry delivers the quintessential female tone. It’s like scraping a fingernail down the school blackboard.
Now, in this moment, Arthur has an opportunity to educate these peasants. To open their minds up to the God given right he has been handed to rule over them. He delivers his most eloquent speech of the sketch.
“The Lady of the Lake,… (angels sing on the backing track to the film) …her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. (singing stops) That is why I am your king!”
Dennis however is having none of it and delivers a killer line.
“Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”
Arthur is incredulous. “Be quiet” he roars.
Dennis is on a roll though, “You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!”
Arthur it seems is done with Kingliness, “Shut up!” he barks.
Dennis like all good anarcho-synicalists knows when he’s got his man, “I mean, if I went ’round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!”
Arthur has had quite enough thank you and marches over to Dennis to manhandle him ” Shut up. Will you shut up” orders the King.
Dennis will not be cowed “Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system”
Again an angry Arthur extols our peasant to “Shut up!” more assertively and with a little shove to the floor.
Dennis has his man right where he want’s him, ” Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”
Here, Arthur should walk away, but he steps right into the trap Dennis has laid for him and utters the immortal line.
Dennis has had his point fully illustrated about the class war. He rejoices in this moment and beseeches those about him who have come to view the confrontation with his last words of the scene.
“Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn’t you?”
I don’t know what it is about this scene that gets my funny bone tingling. It’s high satire. It pokes fun at both sides in the class war. Above all it makes me laugh. A lot.
The rest of the film lives up to this high standard and I could’ve easily selected any number of scenes.
The film was shot on location in rural Scotland on a small budget, just £229,000, put up in part by members of the British rock aristocracy, namely Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull alongside Tony Stratton-Smith (founder and owner of Charisma records, which Python had recorded on).
For me, the low budget and on location filming, created a tight knit group and fostered enormous creativity. The use of language and nuance in the film is exceptional and this remains to this day a film I can watch and laugh at, as well as recite pretty much word for word. I love it and I hope that this sketch might open a door for you to love it too. If you are already a Python fan, then sit back and enjoy the surprise.
If this is new to you I hope the blogging part has set up the video well.
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