Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is one of the biggest struggles I’ve had in a long time, not in the sense that it is a bad film, but because I find it so hard to pinpoint every last detail about why I love such a film. On first watch, I had a very odd impression of it and it didn’t leave very much of a clear taste in my mouth, but over the years, my love for the film has developed and it has quickly become a film that only goes to remind me of the intelligence to be found in such an art form. Brazil just goes to remind me what I love about movies in the first place. In that sense, I always love how a film like this is willing to play around with our own senses, but it leaves more that resonates like many of my own favourites do. Brazil is truly something remarkable.
The very audacity that Terry Gilliam shows within such a daring satire on society is something unlike any other. We’re presented a vision of what seems to be a future where everyone imagines it’s all perfect because of how everything has become so overtly convenient. And given the state of how infused we are with technology, it still feels so realistic in that manner. Was Gilliam ever so able to predict something about our world and what it would succumb to, because we need to be over-indulgent in convenience, then we’re just so used to the order of everything? The film’s willingness to attack such indulgence proves it to be a film very ahead of its time, for we focus on them so much it distracts from the ordinary.
Yet the whole time we watch Brazil, we also laugh. We laugh because we see that the portraits are very wacky, we get the urge because it’s funny. And if there’s something that I do admire about how Terry Gilliam manages to deliver, it’s just what he tries to hide within his sense of humour. Because what we are watching is essentially a more over-the-top and borderline wacky portrait of what is becoming ordinary nowadays, Terry Gilliam makes us laugh at our own misery, and then this realization transforms everything into something terrifying.
As the film states about itself, “It’s only a state of mind.” The wacky images of society that are given off reflect how much we have succumbed to all the conveniences we see in our world. We have succumbed to these conveniences so much to a point that when we try to break away and realize that there is a fair amount we can do without relying on how we think technology makes everything so perfect, the world becomes so much more a confusing place, much like the manner that Gilliam presents all the odd, yet amazingly stunning set pieces.
Jonathan Pryce is this everyman, Sam Lowry, who thinks for himself inside this sort of society. We can tell from his introduction that he dreams for himself, he does not require all this technology to tell him what he should do within this world. Yet everyone else around him is so controlled, and then he stumbles across Jill Layton, played by Kim Griest. Among more in this wonderful ensemble include Robert De Niro as Archibald “Harry” Tuttle, the wanted man who was escaped as a result of a mistake within the system. It gives an image of how man succumbs to the conveniences left by machinery to the point this is how bureaucracy and politics are run.
Brazil may be a funny film, but it is also a very terrifying one when you think about it – especially with how much it has been able to predict about the modern world and its over-reliance on conveniences, technology being a prime factor. In the same manner that George Orwell tackled such issues in 1984, Gilliam shows us something that appears much more light in its tone, despite hiding its heavy message. And once again, it’s only a state of mind, because upon the realization of what we are watching, Brazil is no different from our world after all. It’s Terry Gilliam’s magnum opus, you really can’t get much more outstanding than this.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown
Produced by Arnon Milchan
Starring Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Robert De Niro, Kim Griest, Michael Palin, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins
Release Year: 1985
Running Time: 132 minutes