Recommended Viewing Situation:
Buried under a mountain of paperwork with the words ’27B/6′ written on your forehead in lipstick.
Running Time: 142 minutes.
Format: 35mm Film.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Writer: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown.
Cinematographer: Roger Pratt.
Let me introduce the cult masterpiece that is Brazil (1985), a film so darkly comic that it leaves you shaken to your very core. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Brazil envisages a future dystopian Britain enthralled in a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape. The story primarily follows the ineffectual Sam Lowry (Jonathon Pryce) and his ludicrous quest to, very literally, find the girl of his dreams (Kim Greist), whilst attempting to evade the increasing threat of a broken air-conditioning unit that resides in his flat. The film escalates with savage pace, boasting an array of eerily funny plot twists and dazzling performances. Of particular note: the rogue zip-lining plumber Archibald Tuttle (Robert De Niro), a man hell-bent on making the world a saner place in the face of the Central Services, and Mrs Ida Lowry (Katherine Helmond), the pseudo-debutante mother of Sam who is face meltingly funny in her vanity.
Now despite its humorous overtones, Brazil tackles a number of high-brow themes and has a much more brutal sub-text than it first lets on; it is no accident that one can draw parallels between George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth and Brazil’s own Ministry of Information. Thematically, the narrative invokes a number of Marxist critiques ranging from Raymond Williams to Jean Baudrillard; pay close attention to the hyperreal future food that the Lowrys enjoy together and the riveting office sequences accompanying Mr Warrenn (Ian Richardson). The style of this film is typically Gilliam in approach, surreal, uncanny and Brechtian in its alienating allure (what do you expect from a fellow of the Python family). The retro-futuristic aesthetic recalls the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro and is only heightened by the brilliant work of esteemed British cinematographer Roger Pratt (12 Monkeys, 1995). It is the perfect visual platform for the film’s blending of humour and drama.
Brazil is a ferocious satire that settles into your mind forever through the vehicle of horror rather than humour. The combination of enigmatic images of cyber-angels, po-faced torture masks and the blindsiding actions of Jack Lint (Michael Palin) is something that will stay with you long after all your paperwork has rotted away. The film had such an impact on me as a student I even wrote a small essay that was published on the University of Brighton English Literature and Creative Writing Department Social Network/Blog.