Taglines: Have a laugh at the horror of things to come.
Sam Lowry is a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. While trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Harry Buttle, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has fingered him responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, and both Sam and Jill’s lives are put in danger.
Brazil is a 1985 dystopian science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard. The film stars Jonathan Pryce and features Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan and Kim Greist.
The film centres on Sam Lowry, a man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living in a small apartment, set in a consumer-driven dystopian world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines. Brazil’s bureaucratic, totalitarian government is reminiscent of the government depicted in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except that it has a buffoonish, slapstick quality and lacks a Big Brother figure.
Jack Mathews, a film critic and the author of The Battle of Brazil (1987), described the film as “satirizing the bureaucratic, largely dysfunctional industrial world that had been driving Gilliam crazy all his life”. Though a success in Europe, the film was unsuccessful in its initial North America release. It has since become a cult film. The film is named after the recurrent theme song, Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil”, as performed by Geoff Muldaur.
About the Story
Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a low-level government employee who frequently daydreams of saving a damsel in distress. When a fly gets jammed in a printer and results in the incarceration and accidental death during interrogation of cobbler Archibald Buttle – instead of renegade air conditioning specialist and suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle – Sam is assigned the task of rectifying the error.
Visiting Buttle’s widow, Sam encounters their neighbour Jill Layton (Kim Greist), and is astonished to see that she resembles the woman from his recurring dreams. Jill is trying to help Mrs. Buttle determine what happened to her husband, but her efforts are obstructed by bureaucracy. Unknown to her, she is now considered a terrorist accomplice of Tuttle for attempting to report the mistake of Buttle’s arrest to a government which would rather dispose of all evidence and witnesses than admit its error. Sam approaches Jill, but she avoids giving him full details, worried the government will track her down.
During this time, Sam comes in contact with Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who once worked for Central Services but left due to his dislike of the tedious and repetitive paperwork. Tuttle helps Sam deal with two Central Services workers, Spoor (Bob Hoskins) and Dowser (Derrick O’Connor), who later return to demolish Sam’s ducts and seize his apartment under the guise of fixing the air conditioning.
Sam discovers that the only way to learn about Jill is to get transferred to Information Retrieval, where he can access her classified records. He had previously turned down a promotion arranged by his mother, Ida (Katherine Helmond), who is obsessed with the rejuvenating plastic surgery of cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jaffe (Jim Broadbent). Sam retracts his refusal by speaking with Deputy Minister Mr. Helpmann (Peter Vaughan) at a party hosted by Ida. Obtaining Jill’s records, Sam tracks her down before she can be arrested, then falsifies the records to fake her death, allowing her to escape pursuit.
The two share a romantic night together, but are soon apprehended by the government at gunpoint. Charged with treason for abusing his new position, Sam is restrained to a chair in a large, empty cylindrical room (the interior of a power station cooling tower), to be tortured by his old friend, Jack Lint (Michael Palin). Sam learns that Jill was killed while resisting arrest.
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist
Screenplay by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard
Production Design by: Norman Garwood
Cinematography by: Roger Pratt
Film Editing by: Julian Doyle
Costume Design by: James Acheson
Art Direction by: John Beard, Keith Pain
Music by: Michael Kamen
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some strong violence.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox (International), Universal Pictures ((United States))
Release Date: February 22, 1985 (United Kingdom), December 18, 1985 (United States)