With ‘The Life of Brian’, Monty Python wrote film history. Since 2007 there has also been a music theater version of the Jesus satire. A German version of it was missing – until now.
‘Everyone just a cross’: Generations of film fans grew up with the ‘life of Brian’. And what is possibly the funniest version of the life story of Jesus should now also reach the generation for whom the Monty Python classic has so far only been film history.
The Munich Gärtnerplatztheater will be bringing “The Life of Brian” to the stage this Thursday (7.30 pm) in a music theater version – as a “comic oratorio”, as it says on the theater’s website.
«Of course, neither the ‘Popular Front of Judea’, a speech-disturbed Pontius Pilate, nor popular words like ‘Everyone just a cross!’ and ‘Follow the sandal!’ missing », writes the Gärtnerplatztheater.
‘The Life of Brian’ tells the story of that very Brian, who was born around 2021 years ago in the stable next to Mary and Joseph, 33 years later fought underground against the Romans and finally by a stupid accident for the Messiah is held. He is crucified for the cult song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
The film was released in 1979. Time Out magazine ranked it 20th among the best British films of all time. The British Film Institute (BFI) puts it in 28th place. Many years later – in 2007 – the original English version of the music theater came out. According to the theater, there are very few translations – and the ‘comic oratorio’ did not even exist in German – until now.
The cabaret artist and author Thomas Pigor (65) has translated the “Life of Brian” oratorio, this “very British piece”, into German. Not an easy task. “Translating English lyrics into German is always a challenge because English uses short words – in contrast to German. We have monster words with built-in three-quarter time, such as the vehicle registration office, which you then have to emphasize correctly, ”he says in an interview with the German Press Agency.
«Simple gags translate easily: slapstick interludes or comedy situations. It becomes more difficult when it comes to puns or context. ‘ There are allusions to television series, to Monty Python skits, which are classics for the English, but which a German audience hardly knows. In such cases, he then had to “incorporate a German context”.
The English miners’ choir turns into a group of homesick people
Middle Franconia, who shout ‘Mir wolln hamm’. The Pigor version of the bagpipers is a Bavarian brass band. In his opinion, the special comedy results from the discrepancy between the orchestra and classical singers, who perform with great gestures, on the one hand – and the banality of what they sing on the other.
The piece is based on Handel’s Messiah oratorio. ‘But it’s also Broadway and pop music, country, spiritual, even mariachi trumpets,’ says Pigor. ‘One sentence is called ‘Baroque and Roll’.’
And he saw a challenge not only in the simple translation: “It was my job to translate the lyrics in such a way that they appeal to today’s German-speaking audience” – and even “today’s” was not that easy. “The ‘Life of Brian’ is a timeless subject, even if some numbers can clearly be assigned to the 70s. For example, the dispute between the Jewish resistance groups “Popular Front of Judea” and “Judean Popular Front” is a parody of the left-wing K groups of the 1970s. I am also not sure whether the speech impediment of Pontius Pilate would be amused as freely today as the pythons did back then, ”he says. But one aspect was inviolable for him: the hit ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’. ‘We’d rather sing the chorus in English.’