Brazil - 1985
Director(s): Terry Gilliam
Writer(s): Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown
Cinematography by: Roger Pratt
Editor(s): Julian Doyle
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Peter Vaughan, Michael Palin and Kim Greist
Brazil may not be the best film of all-time, but it instantly became one of my favorite movies (and film experiences) after just one viewing. I came into my viewing with a bit of hype behind it, as this film is often referenced as under-looked or underrated gem and knowing my track record with its directors Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Time Bandits), as I worried it wouldn't live up to the expectations. And to my complete joy, I was utterly wrong. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place in a dystopian-overly bureaucratic-future, as a low-level government employee, Sam Lowry (Pryce), must deal with the paperwork of wrongful execution. His department was meant to pick-up, and execute the terrorist Tuttle, but due to a mistake in the paperwork of the information's department, they picked up Buttle. Lowry during the process starts having dreams in where he must save a damsel in distress, and once he sees his literal dream girl in real life, he forgoes the constraints of his bureaucratic world, to protect her from the system he has obeyed all his life. This screenplay is drenched in social commentary and shines thanks to the nonchalant satire presented in their daily lives. The way the world reacts to the terrorist attacks, the obsession with plastic surgery and youth, the obsession with consumerism, how unmoved they are by the fact that they killed the wrong person, all push the same message on how disconnected a world run by bureaucracy is from humanity. The dark humor elevates the satire, as many throwaway lines made me burst out laughing; "That is your receipt for your husband... and this is my receipt for your receipt", "What would you like for Christmas? *little girl* My own credit card.". The structure of the script sets up the third act perfectly, as we are slowly introduced to Lowry's dream world and the frantic nature of it, when we fall into the craziness that is the third act, we are already accustomed to it.
Quick note: The ending is a whirlwind ride that takes you by the neck and throws you down a rabbit hole, and as soon as you think you are safe to breathe, they pull the rug from under you. I loved it, especially the use of the theme song Brazil.
Gilliam frantic zoom-ins, fast-paced editing creates a tone of uncertainty, the same feeling our lead is drowning in as his life is collapsing. The grey and dark cinematography of an environment shrouded in pipes, ducts, and buildings create a world where the audience feels suffocated, and when you see nature during the dream sequences you welcoming as it is rarely on screen. Gilliam use of practical effects, the most famous being the plastic surgery scene, gives this distant world a sense of realness, a future that could happen as it tangible and you see the actors interacting with the props and sets. One aspect that I loved about the film was the transitions and the use of editing, one transition I have stuck in my head is when the film finally shows the scale of the world, we see the clean, huge, futuristic buildings only to have a giant appear above them. The camera pans out, and it is a model of the city, and behind the homeless man looking at the model, you see the unkept ugly town. The way the pull the rug from the audience is perfection.
Quick note: the film is far from perfect, with the love angel being my least favorite aspect and the lead at times is a bit annoying.
Brazil is Gilliam's version of George Orwell's 1984. While Orwell's vision of big brother is a well-oiled machine, overseeing every single member of society, Gilliam sees the inevitability of human error and how society conforms and accepts its surroundings. The social commentary, sadly, is ever more relevant in 2019 than it was when the film came out, and it joins the ranks (in my head) of movies like Robocop, and Starship Troopers, that use the over the top ridiculousness of their worlds to reflect the flaws and downfall of ours. With great acting by the entire cast, Hoskins being my favorite, fantastic writing, and incredible cinematography, I was quickly sold on this film and now will bang the same drum as everyone who has fallen in love with it, this is an underrated gem. Go watch it. Gilliam is why I love movies.
Brazil is Why I Love Movies.
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