Brazil is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It blends a spy tale, noir love story, dystopian fable, surreal Monty Python style comedy and visually dazzling contemporary fantasy which defies simple explanations.

Review by SAndman
July 7, 2009

Director: Terry Gilliam

screenplay: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown

Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry
Robert De Niro as Archibald 'Harry' Tuttle
Ian Holm as Mr. M. Kurtzmann
Kim Greist as Jill Layton
Bob Hoskins as Spoor
Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Ida Lowry

Released: 1985

Sam Lowry: And you can't tell me what the proper channels are, because that's classified information?

The plot takes place in an unspecified city/country sometime in the 20th century and follows Sam Lowry, a typical antiheroic character, on his daily rounds.

The first thing we notice about the world Sam lives in is that it is run by a few impersonal, state-like, powerful yet utterly inefficient and hopelessly labyrinthine organizations, such as as the Ministry of Information, for which Sam works in an outrageously insignificant capacity, or Central Services whose operatives rudely barge in and nose around people's homes, much like Gestapo agents.

The next thing that stands out is that machines are absolutely indispensable in this place, though they are downright unreliable and terribly cumbersome. Oddly enough, the most important piece of infrastructure are ducts.

The ducts are used for carrying messages in sealed tubes from one department to another, or heating, or god-knows-what purpose. Yet one thing is certain. They are everywhere and in everybody's way, yet no one seems to be bothered by this.

That's another thing you immediately notice about the world of Brazil - on the one hand, life seems impossibly dreary and claustrophobically oppressive and on the other hand, no one seems to care too much about this.

Everybody goes about their business stoically accepting what they generally regard as inevitable inconveniences, which range from fanciful yet absolutely inedible food to impossibly tiny cars and cell-like offices.

Besides, services don't work; the elusive terrorists, which we only ever hear about on the radio or television though we never really get to see, indiscriminately blow up restaurants and shops; innocent citizens are whisked away by masked agents teamed up with dreadfully fussy receipt-waving executives who claim to work for the Ministry of Information; privacy is almost non-existent since you have operatives all over the place; and a bureaucratic slip-up can make the difference between life and death.

As a matter of fact, Sam Lowry sets out to rectify such a mistake at the behest of his spineless and incompetent boss. Along the way he runs into a mysterious woman from his dreams. Suddenly Sam finds himself entangled in the vast and shadowy web of interdependencies and, to his dismay, he realizes that a woman he is in love with might be a terrorist.

But that is only one of his problems. He also discovers that he might have aided and abetted a notorious free lance heating engineer, who tempered with the faulty ducts in his apartment, which in the darkly comic world of Brazil equals an act of sabotage.

Brazil is not a kind of movie you can easily describe. Fairy tale-like sequences segue into scenes charged with dark and ominous overtones, surreal humor at times takes on a sinister quality, thriller style shots are interspersed by sheer burlesque-like scenes.

Brazil is a mix of opposite and seemingly incompatible elements. However, one thing is certain. The central theme of the movie is oppression, yet to tag it as a political satire would be a gross oversimplification.

It would perhaps be much more accurate to describe it as highly individual movie which, among other things, employs some of the science fiction motifs, like dystopian society and ubiquitous, albeit faulty, technology, as well as the paranoia motif, typical of SF classics such as Blade Runner, and retro futuristic setting - Gattaca immediately springs to mind - but it gives it all the author's unique touch.

Essentially, it is a wickedly funny and profoundly tragic tale about pretty much all things that make our existence a living hell, from red tape, family dinners, waiters, doctors and postal services to a police state.

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