Blindspot 2016: Brazil (1985)

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Famed Monty Python troupe member Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) is a maelstrom of bureaucratic bungles, illustrated in his classic quirky style. Its synopsis is as follows:

Bureaucracy and ductwork run amok in the story of a paperwork mixup that leads to the imprisonment of Mr. Buttle, shoe repairman, instead of Harry Tuttle, illegal freelance Heating Engineer. Bureaucrat Sam Lowry (prone to escapes to a fantasy world) gets branded a terrorist and becomes hunted by the state himself in the process of correcting the mistake. (source)

Because I’m running out of time until it’s the end of the year and I really want to finish my Blindspot series before 2017 happens, here is a selection of my thoughts on Brazil.

  1. Having previously worked in a state government department, sadly, I could relate to this film quite a bit. The paperwork, the red tape. I genuinely have nightmares about it.
  2. And this nightmarish vision of a future society ruled by this kind of restrictive, counter-intuitive, counter-productive bureaucracy is a highly cynical one, but a very quirky and engaging one.
  3. Brazil includes performances by two notable Game of Thrones actors: Jonathan Pryce, a.k.a. the High Sparrow, as Sam Lowry; and Peter Vaughan, a.k.a. Maester Aemon, as Mr Helpmann.
  4. There’s a nice little role for Jim Broadbent as well, as a creepy plastic surgeon who partakes in one of the film’s most iconic images.
  5. Overall, there are a lot of great performances (Robert de Niro’s haphazard appearances included), and Jonathan Pryce leads the film with increasingly cartoonish gusto as he sheds the shackles of his previously office-bound life.
  6. The story plods along nicely at its own pace, however the film itself feels quite long for its comparatively simplistic plot.
  7. However, I didn’t really mind the film’s length, because throughout it we are treated to some of the most wonderfully strange direction, cinematography, and set design.
  8. The scale of the design of some of the sets was kind of mind-breaking. Combine this with Gilliam’s Monty Python-esque sense of humour and visual quirks, and you’ve got a film that you can’t tear your eyes away from, even at its more grotesque moments.
  9. I’m glad I watched this for my Blindspot series, because now I’ll finally be able to pick the references to it from other aspects of pop culture.
  10. For a story about a man who’s just trying to fix something but keeps making more and more trouble for himself along the way, Brazil is quite a surreal delight.

3.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

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4 comments

  1. Great review. Surreal indeed. It’s one I’ve never been head-over-heels about but I do appreciate some of the things it does.

    1. Thanks Keith! I did enjoy this but I’m not sure I’d seek it out again for a re-watch. It would be interesting to watch with a group of people to see how everyone reacts to the ending!

  2. Sounds like time well spent.

    1. It’s not half bad! 🙂

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