59. Brazil (1985)

You can never escape the system!

Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist and Robert De Niro

Dystopia has never been so bizarre, depressing and simultaneously funny than Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. While Terry Gilliam is better known in my mind for his Monty Python escapades, and Tom Stoppard for his cleverly written stage productions, it surprised me when I found out that the two had joined forces to write Brazil. The result being an intensely dark and visually dense film that flies unpredictably between bizarre hilarity and the disturbingly absurd.


Sam Lowry (Pryce) has been working for the Department of Records in the Ministry of Information, keeping a dependable yet low-key profile in the sea of grey suits and ties that keep an authoritarian system of government running. As terrorist bombings continue to legitimize the torturing methods and special privileges of the Ministry, Sam soon finds himself on the other side of the system as the girl of his dreams, Jill (Greist) appears in reality as a suspect terrorist who simply wants to bring to light a glitch in the systemthat  mistakenly executes a Harry Buttle instead of a highly wanted Harry Tuttle. As Sam must depend on the loop holes within the system in order to free Jill and escape the system, he must navigate his way through a landscape of technology, commodities and the domineering hegemony that holds it all together.

While Brazil sounds like a thriller, the film moves between comedy, romance and the absurd,  making it hard to locate the film in any rigid genre category. In doing so, Gilliam creates a world that has multiple dimensions and oddities that will surprise, confuzzle (confuse+puzzle) and disturb you in equal measure. Within that dystopic world of machines, brainwashed humans and commercial culture that is taken to the extremes of funerals displaying bright pink coffins, there is an element of the optimistic and hopeful – mostly embodied in the upbeat music that suggests an exotic escapism in the title ‘Brazil.’

The story doesn’t ring of anything too distinct from the dystopic plotlines that have preceded it, taking most of the regime’s operations from Nazi inspirations and raising well-known concepts of consumer culture and media propaganda as tools for control. But the way in which the story is imaginatively executed is something worth seeing – if not, for the visuals, then for the black humour that is performed perfectly by Pryce.


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