Review of Brazil (1985)

Moving picture, 132 minutes

Terry Gilliam (director).

Sam Lowry is refusing to be promoted through a bureaucratic hierarchy of nitpicking oppression, torture and blame-shifting, paid for by the victims. Sam dreams of another world, and when he sees a woman literally from his dreams he begins a quest to break out. The problem is that his society is both leaderless and consensual.

Black comedy and uchronian dystopia with some terror and fantasy action. Brazil is also notable as the last great science fiction film limited to traditional in-camera effects, eschewing even analogue composite shots.

This is the single best film I have ever seen. It’s a funny, horrible, sublime and tightly composed distortion of reality. Kafka meets Orwell, Huxley and Disney: The Leitmotif samba in Kamen’s score strongly resembles the one in “Saludos Amigos” (1942), from the time before Brazil got a military government whose agents carried out terrorism against its own population in the CIA’s “backyard”. The drift toward madness recalls Disney’s own sequel, The Three Caballeros (1944). The opening scene, where a tiny technical malfunction in a huge bureaucracy sets events in motion, resembles the opening of “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” (1964).

In a Guardian interview (Andrew Pulver, 2013-09-02), Gilliam said Brazil was the start of a trilogy of ”dystopian satires”, followed in this context by Twelve Monkeys (1995) and The Zero Theorem (2013).

References here: Time Bandits (1981), The Meaning of Life (1983), Kafka (1991), The Hunger Games (2012), The Zero Theorem (2013).

fiction moving picture