A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #51: Ter­ry Gilliam’s Brazil.


It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this film and this time it gave me the creepy crawlies. This is satire done right, and the fact that after 20 years real­i­ty has near­ly caught up with its pre­science is what makes me feel so strange. Ter­ry Gilliam is, as you might expect, one of my favorite direc­tors, and Brazil is regard­ed by many to be his finest work. This review is going to be a turn­about from the last one [M. Hulot’s Hol­i­day].


Imag­ine your­self liv­ing in a world where the government’s only con­cern is root­ing out ter­ror­ism, where bureau­cra­cy is so entrenched that you can’t get pub­lic doc­u­ments unless you fill out oth­er paper­work first, where peo­ple are impris­oned indef­i­nite­ly for crimes they didn’t com­mit, tor­tured for infor­ma­tion they don’t have—and then charged for the ser­vice. Quick, tell me what coun­try you’re in!


Brazil is a movie about a place where the buck has been passed for so long that the focus is now on get­ting some­one else stuck with it instead of resolv­ing the issue. Brazil is a movie about a place where cor­po­rate con­for­mi­ty is expect­ed, unend­ing ambi­tion to pow­er is a virtue, and con­tent­ment and imag­i­na­tion are things to be despised. Brazil is a movie about a place where no one does any sort of work that is pro­duc­tive; there is no goal but self-preser­va­tion in every aspect of soci­ety. Infor­ma­tion is the main com­mod­i­ty and its labyrinthine fun­nel­ing through bureau­crat­ic red tape is the main source of employ­ment for those we see. Grant­ed, there are a few out­siders who refuse to sign on the dot­ted line, and these are the ones con­sid­ered ter­ror­ists, because they refuse to sup­port the pow­er struc­ture in all its actions.


Stuck as we are, square­ly in the mid­dle of an Infor­ma­tion Age where most of the infor­ma­tion is of no sub­stance and the sub­stan­tive infor­ma­tion can­not be accessed, Brazil is prophet­ic in hind­sight. Yet Gilliam was obvi­ous­ly in dia­logue with events con­tem­po­rary to the mak­ing of his film. He con­sid­ered call­ing it 1984½ and its release in 1985 seems to ful­fill that par­tic­u­lar intent.


The satire doesn’t lim­it itself to pol­i­tics and busi­ness, even the moti­va­tions of pri­vate life are skew­ered by Gilliam and Tom Stop­pard [who helped write the screen­play]. There are so few char­ac­ters with soul in the film that Sam Lowry’s inde­fati­ga­bil­i­ty is notable both for its exis­tence and per­sis­tence in the face of the face­less soci­ety [and moth­er] that has fos­tered him. His toil under the hands of Infor­ma­tion Retrieval becomes rife with Chris­to­log­i­cal sym­bol­ism. His even­tu­al cata­to­nia is, func­tion­al­ly at least, as tran­scen­dent as Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion.


Long ram­bler com­par­ing Brazil to cur­rent Amer­i­can lead­er­ship and pol­i­cy. arti­cle on Gilliam and Brazil.
Brazil FAQ.
Inter­view with Gilliam.

One Reply

  • I watched this movie for the first time after smok­ing a real­ly big joint. That was real­ly, real­ly stu­pid.

    I watched it again after I’d quit with the pot. That, as well, was real­ly, real­ly stu­pid.

    Since I can’t real­ly com­ment intel­li­gent­ly on this movie (because it makes me feel real­ly, real­ly stu­pid), I’ll just leave you with that per­son­al anec­dote.

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