15 Reasons for Brazil (1985)


Criterion often gives “three reasons” for their releases, but most films deserve more than that. I have fifteen reasons for Terry Gilliam’s epic Brazil. They will definitely make more sense if you have seen the film already, but if you haven’t seen it, perhaps this will convince you to check it out soon. In my opinion, it’s one of the best films of the eighties, so I highly recommend it. Just make sure to watch Gilliam’s cut, not the butchered “Lover Conquers All” version.
For those who are interested here’s a little about the story (from IMDb.com): 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.

1) The title song

2) The dream sequences

At first, Sam Lowry’s dreams seem to have little significance in the scheme of his everyday life. However, as the story progresses parallels are unearthed between his nightly visions and his daily adventures. These awe-inspiring sequences are perhaps the most memorable pieces of this unforgettable film.

3) De Niro as Tuttle
Appearing unexpectedly and leaving Sam’s apartment on a zip line, Harry Tuttle is probably the most hopeful character in Brazil. He is a fugitive, allusive and mysterious, existing outside all the absurdity of Sam’s life. De Niro performs without fault here and he commands every scene he is in. (Robert De Niro reportedly wanted to play Jack, until Gilliam told him that the role had already been given to Michael Palin. Still wanting to participate in the film, De Niro accepted the role of Harry Tuttle instead.)

4) “1984 & 1/2”
Originally titled 1984 &1/2, Brazil is an Orwellian cautionary tale, depicting the dangers of a totalitarian government in a dystopian society of the future. The message is clearly communicated without ever feeling preachy.

5) The absurdity
There are some genuinely funny bits of over-the-top humor and the fact that the film is darkly comical only makes its message even more deeply unsettling.

6) ‘Fixing’ the air conditioning

And if you need evidence of the absurdity, I point you to this scene in which two Central Services workers demolish Sam’s apartment while ‘fixing’ the air conditioner.

7) The unlikely love story

8) The mask
One of cinema’s greatest masks?

9) It’s totally 80s

10) Sharing a desk
Once in Information Retrieval, Sam discovers that the desk in his office is shared by the man in the neighboring office. It’s one of the film’s best gags and further proof of Gilliam’s comedic genius.

11) The samurai


12) Michael Palin’s Jack
-SPOILER ALERT- Like Harry Tuttle, the audience’s perception of the character of Jack changes completely during the film. The disturbing shift from likable friend to cold torturer is instrumental to setting up the devastating ending. -END OF SPOILER-

13) Neo-noir dystopian science fiction satirical romantic comedy
…if I had to place the film in one genre. 🙂

14) The visuals
Even after almost thirty years, the fantastic art direction and incredible visual effects are perhaps the best aspects of the movie.

15) The ending


Rating: A

9 responses to “15 Reasons for Brazil (1985)

  1. Nice review. I saw this back in August and had a mixed opinion on it, mostly because I found the story too hard to follow. I didn’t see Gilliam’s director’s cut unfortunately, so I’ll have to see the Criterion version.

    • Definitely see the director’s cut when you get the chance. The 90 minute version was the version cut and released by the studio with the goal of making the movie more commercial. I’ve haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard that it is VERY different from the 140 minute version that Gilliam wanted to release.

  2. Pingback: Movie Report Card: May 2013 | Cinema Train·

  3. Right on. I love Brazil, and you definitely capture a lot of the best parts about it. Despite the fact that it’s telegraphed by how ridiculous the “chase” out of the facility is, the ending is so chilling.

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