Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm
Writers: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard
Music: Michael Kamen
Production: United Kingdom, 1985
Runtime: 142 Minutes (Director´s cut) – 94 (TV release)
Welcome back to Film Focus. Tonight I have the honor of having my good friend NYUN joining me. We will be reviewing Brazil, one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies. First thanks for agreeing to review this film with me.
NYUN: No problem, my friend. I always enjoy your reviews, and this is one of my favorite films, as well.
Now, I always start my reviews explaining how I get to discover the movie. I was born in 1986, so I didn’t see the movie until I was 16 years old. I was in High School, and we were reading 1984 by George Orwell-one of the best novels I’ve read.
NYUN: Oh, yeah-I read that one in College-it was an amazing book
One day, my mother pointed out that there was a movie called Brazil that was similar to this novel. Intrigued, the first weekend I was free, I rented it. What was the circumstance that introduced this film to you, NYUN?
NYUN: I have a great friend from High School named Aaron, who, among other things is a total movie fanatic(I am too, which is why we’re such good friends). He kept raving about this film as an absolute masterpiece, so he screened it for me and I was hooked! I always liked the films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys, The Adventures of Barron Munchaussen and The Fisher King to name a few. Brazil IMO is his masterpiece.
Now that you mention the Director of the movie, I have to say that until researching information for this movie, I didn’t know that Gilliam directed 12 monkeys(definitely a movie to check out). Now that we know a little bit about the director, can you tell us the general plot of the film?
NYUN: Well, Sebastian, I’ll give it a shot: ) AHEM!….Sam Lowry, portrayed by Jonathan Pryce is a blue collar data worker in a dystopian future British world run by a horrific totalitarian regime. He has these daydreams of rescuing a beautiful damsel in distress. He attempts to fix an error(since according to the ones in charge, errors never occur)over a fly getting jammed in a typewriter changing a single letter in an arrest order. He is sent to the widow of Archibald Buttle, who was arrested and subsequently killed in a mistaken identity mishap (They were actually after Archibald “Harry” TUTTLE, a terrorist!) During his visit, he meets upstairs neighbor Jill Layton(Kim Greist)-the woman in his dreams! She’s attempting to help Buttle’s widow discover what happened to her husband against the bureaucracy that now have linked her to this mess, and in order to keep the mistake from becoming known, intend to have her arrested too! Sam, of course, wants to protect her, and uses the influence of his plastic surgery obsessed mother to get transferred to a job where he can save her. He also meets the real Tuttle(Robert DeNiro) an unusual air conditioning repairman on the lam from the government he bailed from to avoid the oppressive paperwork. Sam rushes to save Jill ahead of the police while altering her records to protect her from the arrest that’s coming-he succeeds-sort of……While she is in the clear, and they fall in love and have a wild night of passion, Sam is arrested for misusing his position to falsify the record! In an epic scene of interrogation, he’s strapped to a chair in the center of a power station cooling tower, and tortured by his old friend Jack Lint(Michael Palin). Before long, however, he’s rescued by Tuttle and a gang of terrorists who shoot Lint and grab Sam before blowing up the government building. In a bizarre scene, Tuttle is consumed by a mass of paperwork from the regime and vanishes! Finding his mother(who thanks to the plastic surgeries, now resembles JILL!) at a funeral, he is shocked by her appearance and falls into the casket(which appears to be bottomless)and lands in his daydream. He struggles in this reality inhabited by monsters and flex-ducts from the police. Climbing up to a door, he passes through to find he’s in a trailer that Jill is driving! Together, they flee the city and live happily ever after. OR DO THEY! Uh…NO, they don’t, as we see in the next scene. Sam is still strapped to the interrogation chair, and appears to be catatonic. The whole escape was inside his head and he’s gone mad after all.
Now that we’ve covered the plot, I would like to talk about the world it depicts. The movie is set in a futuristic Great Britain. The characters of the movie live under a government that is highly bureaucratic and militaristic. Despite all of this, throughout the film, we can see they make mistakes and they are not so perfect. The movie is triggered by an error occurring in the government records office. We can say that the government is totalitarian as for all government facilities are under military guard. Throughout the movie we get the idea that there is a “Big Brother” that is always watching. One wonders how this government can sustain with such flaws so well, that when the excuse of the Terrorist is introduced as these people bombing restaurants and shops to take down this government, when we can’t see any of these activities-so the idea of Terrorism is very questionable. One of the most terrible things about this government is that to get information from their suspects they have a part of the ministry of information dedicated to torturing people for information. This Society is portrayed as being very controlled as everything they do is in the government records. Also, it’s the type of society of “don’t ask don’t tell,” where nobody questions the decisions of the government and the terrorist strikes are usually ignored. In one scene Sam is in a restaurant with his mother when a bomb goes off! The waitress brings them something as if nothing’s happened and the orchestra starts right up again, oblivious to the destruction. In addition, the movie shows two different worlds, one of the people working for the government, where everything is organized and the streets are clean, and the other, very different where the lower class people that live in a colorless and monotonous part of the city.
NYUN: It is a brilliant depiction of Orwell’s 1984-except for the lack of a Big Brother Deus ex machina, and the humor that’s present in it. The world is stark and cold with fantastically huge set pieces and incredible model work that’s Gilliam’s signature in his films. You get a sense that nobody’s living free in this society, that you really want to see Sam succeed in his efforts to find some happiness in his life.
I think we covered the most important aspects of Brazil. There is a lot to talk about still, but I think we can leave that to the audience to discover for itself. Now that we are almost at the end of the review, can you tell us what’s your favorite scene?
NYUN: That’s a tough one. There’s so many great Iconic scenes to choose from. I think I’m going to go with the scene where Sam is passed out in his refrigerator when the phone rings. He smashes his head on the freezer door and knocks the phone off the wall trying to answer it. Failing several times, he finally plugs the receiver back in and tries to talk. Meanwhile we see a mysterious figure creeping up behind him, and we realize that this figure is the one on the phone with Sam! He turns around and the stranger points a gun at him. Terrified, Sam holds his hands in the air, while the hooded stranger inspects his room while training the gun on him. Finally convinced it’s safe, the stranger takes off his hood and starts talking with Sam. It seems that this is Archibald “Harry” Tuttle (The terrorist that the government is REALLY after, played by Robert De Niro). It further turns out, that this man is now a renegade air conditioner mechanic who split from the government to escape the bureaucracy of red tape and paperwork. He explains all of this to Sam while peeling off the wall panel to work on his system. The scene is done completely serious, yet the subject matter is so silly that it’s surreal.
Great scene indeed, my favorite scene is when Sam goes to the department of information to meet his friend. Before entering the office, he discovers a trace of blood on the floor. Very nervously, he cleans it with his foot. It’s very noticeable, as the floor is white. Sam finally enters the office. There is a secretary typing something she’s hearing over her headphones. When he tries to talk to her, she removes the headphones, and you can hear the screams of a person being tortured! I didn’t remember this scene the first time I watched it, but watching it again now, I see it’s a really macabre scene. Well, we’ve reached the end of this review so once again, I’d like to thank NYUN for joining me for this review.
NYUN: Thanks for having me on the show, I had a wonderful time talking with you, my friend. And thanks to TGWTG fans out there for giving us some of your time, as well. Peace.
That’s the end of this review. In the next review it will be about “Hana-Bi” the seventh movie of Takeshi Kitano, so I hope you liked this type of format. In the future, I would try to get another friend to join me. As always thanks for your time.
By Sebastian Nadilo & NYUN
Trailer: Brazil (1985)