Brazil (1985 movie)
|Directed by||Terry Gilliam|
|Produced by||Arnon Milchan|
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Edited by||Julian Doyle|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
(USA & Canada)
|Box office||$9.9 million (North America)|
The film is about Sam Lowry. He is trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams. He has a mind-numbing job. He lives in a small apartment. The film is set in a dystopian world, where people rely on poorly maintained machines.
The film stars Jonathan Pryce and features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm. It was directed by Terry Gilliam, and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard.
The film was successful in Europe. The film was unsuccessful in its initial North America release. It has since become a cult film. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted Brazil the 54th greatest British film of all time.
Plot[change | change source]
The film is set in a dystopian, bureaucratic future. Sam Lowry is a low-level government employee. He daydreams, seeing himself as a winged warrior saving a damsel in distress. A fly gets jammed in a printer and creates an error. This results in the arrest of Archibald Buttle instead of Archibald Tuttle. Buttle dies during interrogation. Tuttle is a rebel air conditioning repairman and suspected terrorist.
Sam is assigned the task of putting things right. Sam visits Buttle's widow and meets their neighbour, Jill Layton. He is astonished to discover that she looks like the woman in his dream. Jill has been trying to help Mrs Buttle to find out what happened to her husband. Her efforts have been blocked by bureaucracy. Unknown to her, she is now considered a terrorist accomplice of Tuttle. This is due to her attempt to report the mistake of Buttle's arrest.
Sam reports a fault in his apartment's air conditioning. Central Services wont help. Tuttle, unexpectedly, comes to his assistance. Tuttle used to work for Central Services. He left because of his dislike of the paperwork. Tuttle repairs Sam's air conditioning. Two Central Services workers, Spoor and Dowser, then arrive. Sam has to distract them to let Tuttle escape. The workers later return to smash Sam's air conditioning under the pretence of fixing it.
Sam discovers that the only way to learn about Jill is to be promoted to Information Retrieval. Here he will be able to access her classified records. He had previously turned down a promotion arranged by his mother, Ida. She is obsessed with having plastic surgery by cosmetic surgeon Dr Jaffe. At Ida's party, Sam speaks with Deputy Minister Mr Helpmann. He gets his promotion.
Sam gets Jill's records. He tracks her down before she can be arrested. He then falsifies the records to say she is dead. This allows her to escape. The two share a romantic night together. They are arrested by the government at gunpoint. Sam is charged with treason for abusing his new position. Sam is restrained in a chair in a large room. He is to be tortured by his old friend, Jack Lint. Sam is told that Jill was killed while resisting arrest.
Jack is about to start the torture. Tuttle breaks into the Ministry, shoots Jack, rescues Sam, and blows up the Ministry building.
Sam and Tuttle flee together. Tuttle disappears amid a mass of scraps of paperwork from the destroyed building.
Sam stumbles into the funeral of Ida's friend. The friend had died following too much cosmetic surgery. Sam discovers that his mother now resembles Jill. She is too busy being fawned over by young men to care about her son's plight.
Guards disrupt the funeral. Sam falls into the open casket. He falls through a black void. He lands in a street from his daydreams. He tries to escape police and monsters by climbing a pile of flexible tubes.
He opens a door and goes through it. He is surprised to find himself in a truck driven by Jill. The two leave the city together.
However, this "happy ending" is a delusion. In reality, he is still strapped to the chair. It is implied that he has been lobotomised by Jack. Realising that Sam has descended into blissful insanity, Jack and Mr Helpmann declare him a lost cause and leave the room. Sam remains in the chair, smiling and humming "Aquarela do Brasil".
Cast[change | change source]
Main cast[change | change source]
- Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry. Pryce has described the role as one of the highlights of his career. Tom Cruise was also considered for the role.
- Kim Greist as Jill Layton. Gilliam's first choice for the part was Ellen Barkin; also considered were Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Rae Dawn Chong, Joanna Pacuła, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly McGillis, and Madonna. Gilliam was reportedly dissatisfied with Greist's performance, and chose to cut or edit some of her scenes as a result.
- Robert De Niro as Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. De Niro still wanted a part in the film after being denied that of Jack Lint, so Gilliam offered him the smaller role of Tuttle.
- Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Ida Lowry. According to Helmond, Gilliam called her and said, "I have a part for you, and I want you to come over and do it, but you're not going to look very nice in it." The make-up was applied by Gilliam's wife, Maggie. During production, Helmond spent ten hours a day with a mask glued to her face; her scenes had to be postponed due to the blisters this caused.
- Ian Holm as Mr. Kurtzmann, Sam's boss.
- Bob Hoskins as Spoor, a government-employed heating engineer who resents Harry Tuttle.
- Michael Palin as Jack Lint. Robert De Niro read the script and expressed interest in the role, but Gilliam had already promised the part to Palin, a friend and regular collaborator. Palin described the character as "someone who was everything that Jonathan Pryce's character wasn't: he's stable, he had a family, he was settled, comfortable, hard-working, charming, sociable – and utterly and totally unscrupulous. That was the way we felt we could bring out the evil in Jack Lint."
- Ian Richardson as Mr. Warrenn, Sam's new boss at Information Retrieval.
- Peter Vaughan as Mr. Helpmann, the Deputy Minister of Information.
Supporting cast[change | change source]
- Jim Broadbent as Doctor Louis Jaffe, Ida Lowry's plastic surgeon.
- Brian Miller as Mr. Archibald Buttle, the man imprisoned and accidentally killed for Archibald Tuttle's crimes.
- Sheila Reid as Mrs. Veronica Buttle, Archibald Buttle's widow.
- Barbara Hicks as Mrs. Alma Terrain.
- Kathryn Pogson as Shirley Terrain, Alma's daughter.
- Bryan Pringle as Spiro, the waiter.
- Derrick O'Connor as Dowser, Spoor's partner.
- Elizabeth Spender as Alison "Barbara" Lint, Jack's wife.
- Holly Gilliam, daughter of director Terry Gilliam, as Holly Lint, Jack's daughter.
- Derek Deadman and Nigel Planer as Bill and Charlie, workers repairing the Buttles' ceiling.
- Gorden Kaye as the M.O.I. porter.
- Myrtle Devenish as Jack's secretary.
- Roger Ashton-Griffiths as the Priest.
- Jack Purvis as Doctor Chapman.
- Andre Gregory as Luke
Cameos[change | change source]
- Co-writer Charles McKeown as Harvey Lime, Sam's co-worker.
- Director Terry Gilliam as the smoking man at Shang-ri La Towers.
Production[change | change source]
Writing[change | change source]
Gilliam, McKeown, and Stoppard collaborated on further drafts. Brazil was developed under the titles The Ministry and 1984 ½. This refered to Orwell's original Nineteen Eighty-Four and also to 8½ by Federico Fellini. Gilliam cites Fellini as one of this directing influences. During the film's production, other working titles floated about. These included The Ministry of Torture, How I Learned to Live with the System—So Far, and So That's Why the Bourgeoisie Sucks. The final choice of Brazil related to the name of the signature tune.
In an interview with Salman Rushdie, Gilliam stated:
Brazil came specifically from the time, from the approaching of 1984. It was looming. In fact, the original title of Brazil was 1984 ½. Fellini was one of my great gods and it was 1984, so let’s put them together. Unfortunately, that bastard Michael Radford did a version of 1984 and he called it 1984, so I was blown.
Gilliam sometimes refers to this film as the second in his "Trilogy of Imagination" films, starting with Time Bandits (1981) and ending with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). All are about the "craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible." All three movies focus on these struggles and attempts to escape them through imagination—Time Bandits, through the eyes of a child, Brazil, through the eyes of a man in his thirties, and Munchausen, through the eyes of an elderly man. In 2013, Gilliam also called Brazil the first instalment of a dystopian satire trilogy it forms with 1995's 12 Monkeys and 2013's The Zero Theorem (though he would later deny having said this).
Gilliam has stated that Brazil was inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Though he has admitted he has never read it. Critics have pointed out many similarities and differences between the two.
Production design[change | change source]
Gilliam's often uses very wide lenses and tilted camera angles. These go unusually wide compared with mainstream Hollywood productions. Gilliam made the film's wide-angle shots with 14mm (Zeiss), 11mm, and 9.8mm (Kinoptik) lenses. The 9.8mm lens was a recent technological innovation. It was one of the first very short focal length lens that did not fish-eye. Over the years, the 14mm lens has become informally known as "The Gilliam" among film-makers. This is due to the director's frequent use of it since Brazil.
Music[change | change source]
The music was arranged by Michael Kamen. His orchestration for the film made it more acceptable to modern tastes. This version is often used in contexts that have little to do with Brazil and more to do with Gilliam's dystopian vision.
Kamen, who scored the film, originally recorded "Brazil" with vocals by Kate Bush. This recording was not included in the actual film or the original soundtrack release. It has been included on later releases of the soundtrack.
Gilliam recalls drawing the inspiration to use the song:
This place was a métallurgie city, where everything was covered by a gray metallic dust... Even the beach was completely covered by dust, it was really dusky. The sun was going down and was very beautiful. The contrast was extraordinary. I had this image of a man sitting there in this sordid beach with a portable radio, tuned in those strange escapist Latin songs like Brazil. The music took him away somehow and made the world seem less blue to him.
Release[change | change source]
Battle for final cut[change | change source]
The film was produced by Arnon Milchan's company Embassy International Pictures. Gilliam's original cut of the film is 142 minutes long and ends on a dark note. This version was released internationally by 20th Century Fox.
US distribution was handled by Universal, whose executives felt the ending tested poorly. Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg insisted on a dramatic re-edit of the film to give it a happy ending. He suggested testing both versions to see which scored higher. At one point, there were two editing teams working on the film, one without Gilliam's knowledge. A version of Brazil was created by the studio with a more consumer-friendly ending.
There was a lengthy delay with no sign of the film being released. Gilliam took out a full-page ad in the trade magazine Variety urging Sheinberg to release Brazil in its intended version. Sheinberg spoke publicly of his dispute with Gilliam in interviews and ran his own advertisement in Daily Variety offering to sell the film. Gilliam conducted private screenings of Brazil (without the studio's approval) for film schools and local critics. On the same night Universal's award contender Out of Africa premiered in New York, Brazil was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for "Best Picture". This prompted Universal to finally agree to release a modified 132-minute version supervised by Gilliam, in 1985.
Reception[change | change source]
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 98% rating. The site's critical consensus reads "Brazil, Terry Gilliam's visionary Orwellian fantasy, is an audacious dark comedy, filled with strange, imaginative visuals."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote "Terry Gilliam's Brazil, a jaunty, wittily observed vision of an extremely bleak future, is a superb example of the power of comedy to underscore serious ideas, even solemn ones."
Accolades[change | change source]
In 2004, Total Film named Brazil the 20th-greatest British movie of all time.
Home media[change | change source]
Brazil has been released four times by The Criterion Collection. as a five-disc LaserDisc box set in 1996, a three-disc DVD box set in 1999 and 2006, a single-disc DVD in 2006, and a two-disc Blu-ray set in 2012. The packaging for the 1999 and 2006 three-disc box sets is identical in appearance, but the latter release is compatible with widescreen televisions.
Except the single-disc version, all versions have the same special features: a 142-minute cut of the film (referred to by Gilliam as the "fifth and final cut"), Sheinberg's 94 minute "Love Conquers All" cut for syndicated television, and various galleries and featurettes.
A Blu-ray of the 132-minute US version of the movie was released in the US on 12 July 2011 by Universal. It contains only that version of the film and no extra features.
Influence[change | change source]
Film[change | change source]
Other films that drew inspiration from Brazil's cinematography, art design, and/or overall atmosphere include Jean-Pierre Jeunet's and Marc Caro's films Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995), Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel's Super Mario Bros. (1993), the Coen brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), and Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998).
The ending of Neil Marshall's The Descent was much inspired by Brazil's, and Marshall explained in an interview that "the original ending for Brazil was a massive inspiration for the original ending of The Descent – the idea that someone can go insane on the outside, but inside they've found happiness."
Technology[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- McAuley, Paul (2004). Brazil. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1844577953.
- Pym, John (1985). "Brazil". Monthly Film Bulletin (British Film Institute) 52 (612): 107–108. "dist— 20th Century Fox. p.c.— Brazil Productions". .
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pc production company (distributors not given).
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pc Brazil Productions.
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- Rogers, Richard A. (5 June 2009). "1984 to Brazil: From the Pessimism of Reality to the Hope of Dreams". Text and Performance Quarterly (London, England: Taylor & Francis) 10 (1): 34–46. http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/rar/papers/RogersTPQ1990.pdf. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
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- Puddicombe, Stephen (4 July 2017). "Brazil: five films that may have influenced Terry Gilliam's dystopian masterpiece". British Film Institute. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
- Kinnear, Simon (8 March 2014). "Re-Viewed: Terry Gilliam's Prescient Sci-Fi Brazil". Digital Spy. London, England: Bauer Media Group. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
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- Rodgers, Richard A. (1990). "1984 to Brazil: From the Pessimism of Reality to the Hope of Dreams" (PDF). Text and Performance Quarterly. Abingdon, England: Taylor & Francis. pp. 34–46.
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Calling it the third part of a trilogy formed by earlier dystopian satires Brazil and 12 Monkeys, Gilliam says ...
- Suskind, Alex (17 September 2014). "Interview: Terry Gilliam On 'The Zero Theorem,' Avoiding Facebook, 'Don Quixote' And His Upcoming Autobiography". IndieWire. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
Well, it's funny, this trilogy was never something I ever said, but it's been repeated so often it's clearly true [laughs]. I don't know who started it but once it started it never stopped ...
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Further reading[change | change source]
- Bruce Krajewski, "Postmodernism, Allegory, and Hermeneutics in Brazil, in Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and Rhetoric (1992), ISBN 0-87023-815-9.
- Jack Mathews, The Battle of Brazil (1987), ISBN 0-517-56538-2.
Other websites[change | change source]
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Brazil (1985 movie)|
- Brazil on IMDb
- Brazil at the TCM Movie Database
- Brazil at AllMovie
- Brazil at Box Office Mojo
- Brazil at Rotten Tomatoes
- Brazil at Metacritic
- Wide Angle Closeup: The Terry Gilliam Files – Interviews and production stories on Brazil
- Brazil Screenplay, Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard & Charles McKeown, Daily Script website
- DGA magazine interview with Gilliam
- Hamel, James Keith. Modernity and Mise-en-scene: Terry Gilliam and Brazil, from Images: Journal of Film and Popular Culture
- Brazil: A Great Place to Visit, Wouldn’t Want to Live There an essay by David Sterritt at the Criterion Collection