A lot of people come to this film expecting "Monty Python and The Holy Grail 2", and leave perplexed and disappointed. Understandably so. Come to this from "Brazil", however, and it makes a lot more sense.
For much of the same preoccupations that underlie "Brazil" underpin this film too, even if it is by no means as bleak and disturbing. Dennis, our hero, is a socially inept individual easily swayed by the attractions of materialism, albeit Dark Ages materialism - best symbolized by a rotting tuber gifted without care by his unappreciative muse.
The society he blunders through is an incompetent bureaucracy, complete with venal merchants and a delightfully distracted king, played wonderfully by Max Wall. Despite the literally tumbledown state of his kingdom, King Bruno is more caught up in the romance of medieval adventuring than any practical measures to either renovate his decaying castle or, indeed, to fight the monster that provides the film's title.
The world Gilliam creates for us, dirty, dusty, impoverished for most, echoes that of "Holy Grail", but is altogether less lightly humorous and much darker in tone. The humor is black and often only really sinks in after repeated viewing. But it is there once the veneer is scrubbed away. Curiously veneer is very much a subject of the film, from the rotten vegetable treated as a precious gift to the character, played by Gilliam himself, who wanders around under the delusion that the ordinary rocks he has picked off the ground are diamonds. Shallowness and lack of perception permeate almost all the characters, so much so that when the monster is killed, essentially by accident, one almost feels a twinge of sympathy for the Jabberwock stopped forever in its quest to rid King Bruno's kingdom of its inhabitants. It, at least, knows what it really wants.
It's not a perfect film. The pacing slows in places. Some scenes could have been cut or trimmed. Nonetheless, it is memorable and thought-provoking and well worth viewing.
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