Brazil (film)

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A 1985 film directed by Terry Gilliam, depicting one man's futile struggle against a futuristic (and heavily decayed) governmental bureaucracy, drawing very heavily on George Orwell's 1984.[1] Stakes a serious claim towards being the most definite and ghastly example of Executive Meddling in the entire history of cinema. If you're not watching the director's cut, you're not watching the real thing.

Especially notable for its imaginative and depressing "Somewhere In The 20th Century" setting, involving a Used Future (or past) of poorly-functioning Schizo-Tech, a regime-mandated case of Too Many Ducts covering everything and anything. Along with Blade Runner and Max Headroom, it set the standard for Twenty Minutes Into the Future production design, scrambling the near future and the recent past into a vaguely familiar alternate present.

Not to be confused with the large country in South America and the phantom island from Irish mythology that appeared in fellow Python Terry Jones's film Erik the Viking. The title actually refers to a recurring musical motif involving the Latin American tune "Aquarela Do Brasil", which features prominently throughout the soundtrack.

Tropes used in Brazil (film) include:
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Charges against Sam Lowry are as following: Giving aid and comfort to the enemies of society, attempting to conceal a fugitive from justice, passing confidential documents to unauthorized personnel, destroying government property, viz. several personnel carriers, taking possession under false pretenses of said carriers, forging the signature of the Head of Records, misdirecting funds in the form of a check to A. Buttle through unauthorized channels, tampering with Central Services supply ducts, obstructing forces of law and order in the exercise of their duty, disregarding the good name of the government and the Department of Information Retrieval, attempting to disrupt the Ministry's internal communicating system... wasting Ministry time and paper.
  • Bandage Babe: Jill wears a bandage on one of her hands. According to Word of God, it was added to give her "more personality."
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Sam Lowry and his timid boss.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the face of torture, Sam retreats into some kind of fugue state, oblivious to external stimuli. He is finally free of his responsibilities, in a place where the bureaucrats can't get to him: "I think we've lost him" "I'm afraid you're right Jack... he's gone." Terry Gilliam does like his bittersweet endings.
    • Gilliam admitted that the conclusion of the movie was the first idea that came to him. He asked himself what kind of story would have a man going insane as a happy ending.
  • Black Comedy
  • Bowdlerization: The version broadcast on American television was heavily edited to remove content Universal head Sid Sheinberg thought too disturbing. About half an hour of footage -- including most dream sequences -- was cut, and it completely rewrote the ending into a "Love Conquers All" ending simply by removing the sounds of Jill's off-screen death and the final scene that shows the "happy ending" is just the dream of a Sam gone mad.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Sam's mother's friend's daughter Shirley
  • Cold-Blooded Torture
  • Crapsack World: The only way to escape it is probably to just die. Or go mad.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Dormanted, deleted, inoperative, excised, completed... dead.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina
  • Dieselpunk: Trope Codifier.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What the engineers Dowser and Spoon do with Sam's apartment after he made them go away so he could help Tuttle avoid being caught. Apparently asking Central Service employers for 27B/6 paperwork causes them to suffer a psychotic breakdown.
  • The Ditz: The tall, skinny repairman with the Scottish accent who just repeats everything that his partner says.
  • Downer Ending: The last scene.
  • Dystopia: Where the bureaucracy is so omnipotent that people even have massive pipes running through their homes, and a slight typo on a report will get the wrong guy killed. And then get his widow billed for his torture and execution.
    • They do give her a refund when they realize the mistake. Too bad they misplaced his body.
    • It's implied that the state's terrorist enemies are non-existent, with the state's own incompetence causing the disasters it blames on terrorism. It sounds sillier than it is, and in a way comes off as more plausible and frightening than 1984.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: The system is paper-thin and inefficient. Unfortunately, the populace is too moronic, cowed and conformist to do anything about it.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Mr. Kurtzman.
  • Executive Meddling: On an epic level, detailed in the book The Battle For Brazil.
  • Faceless Mooks: Played with. Lowry is in a police van when two assault troopers, who up to now have been completely hidden by their riot armor, remove their helmets and start complaining about how they can't see with them on, and how the armor makes them sweat.
  • False-Flag Operation: The film is deliberately ambiguous as to whether the bomb explosions are this or not.
  • Fast Roping: The Ministry Of Information troops crash into Mr. Buttle's living room through the windows on ropes, through the door and through a hole sliced through the ceiling.
  • Fat and Skinny: The two repairmen from Central Services.
  • For Inconvenience Press One: Subtly parodied. When his heating goes wrong, Sam calls a support helpline and is greeted by a boilerplate response:

"Due to staff shortages, Central Services cannot take calls between 2300 and 0900. This has not been a recording. Have a nice day."

  • For Want of a Nail: A single swatted fly falling into a teletype causes it to misprint "Buttle" instead of "Tuttle" on an arrest warrant. This is the cause of the movie's plot.
  • Funny Background Event: While Sam talks to the girl with braces at his mother's party, she can be seen flirting behind them.
    • In the scene in the restaurant, the waiter can be seen storing the dog under a serving tray for safekeeping.
    • Lots of weird posters and graffiti pepper the background of the city. For example, in the scene where Sam is outside of the Buttles' apartment, there is an ad for a vacation offering "a panic free atmosphere," and someone has changed "Shangra La Towers" into "Shangorilla Towers."
  • Future Food Is Artificial: At the fancy restaurant they served Mystery Meat in small piles of ground goo with a place card showing what the meal should be.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Jill.
  • Gone Horribly Right: A rare and brief heroic example. When Sam decides to rebel against the bureaucracy, he attempts to participate in a terrorist attack. The terrorist he's assisting isn't one, and points out the horrific carnage around them, telling him he needs to help the people hurt.
  • Happily Ever Before: The "Love Conquers All" ending.
  • High-Class Glass: One of the plastic surgeons sports a monocle.
  • Hypocritical Humour: "Mistakes? We don't make mistakes!" *crash*
  • Inherent in the System
  • Just Following Orders
  • The Last DJ: Tuttle, and Jill.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The end result of Alma's plastic surgeries.
  • The Ministry of Truth: "Don't you need".
    • Surprising for these kinds of societies, the news interviewer at the beginning asks some critical questions.
      • Presumably staged, to provide the public with a false sense of balance, heading off the people asking questions themselves.
      • It doesn't have to be, when you consider that in this movie The Ministry of Truth is horribly, monstrously incompetent, rather than horribly, monstrously competent. They commit their evil through bumbling, careless idiocy, not by elaborate, diabolical schemes. They probably couldn't properly control media if they tried, it's just that the media is incompetent, too.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery
    • Played straight: Mrs. Ida Lowry regenerates to the point where her last appearance is played by a different actress -- although it could be argued that was fever-induced.
      • Could be argued that it was some version of an Oedipus Complex, since the different actress was Kim Griest, i.e. Jill.
    • Subverted: Alma Terrain is promised this, but deteriorates instead, to the point of Ludicrous Gibs.

"My complication had a complication..."

  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Quite deliberately invoked by Terry Gilliam in the casting of Jack Lint. Real-life nice guy Michael Palin brings all his wit and charm to bear on the character, which makes Jack even creepier when you remember what his actual job is.
  • Mind Screw: Over, and over, and over, and over...
  • Mr. Imagination. Sam Lowry.
  • My Beloved Smother
  • Never Found the Body: Mrs. Tuttle Buttle: "What have you done with his BODY!?!?!?!"
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise
  • Noodle Implements: .....and there is also a super bouncy ball and pacifier.....
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: A news program states that the Ministry Of Information's budget is 7% of the GNP.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: 'Ere I am, J. H.
  • Punch Clock Villain: All of the villains and stooges in the film are essentially punch clock villains. No one is doing anything out of malice; they're simply apathetic cogs in a merciless and out of control bureaucratic machine. Jack, the white-collar torturer who brings his kids to the office, is a notable example.
    • They're not just punchclock, either, they're so low on the totem pole in each of their jobs that the characters constantly swear that the latest disaster is not their fault.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: A very poor breakfast machine.
    • On the DVD commentary, Terry Gilliam claims that Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis ripped off his breakfast machine idea for Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Back to The Future.
    • Even though it was around way before *Cough Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Cough*. Then again, that one worked.
    • Every machine in the film is this. Each telephone has its own switchboard, the plug for the bath descends from the shower head, heating is controlled by an impossibly complex array of pipes, valves and rubber bladders and driven ruinously out of control by the tiniest piece of crud.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Ida Lowry's fashions look like a terribly expensive version of this.
  • Running Gag: Sam's personal carrier (car) that gets torched by the urchins. Since he's obsessed with Jill, he doesn't report it stolen and ignores countless memos he receives which attempt to find out what happened to it. One of the crimes he stands accused of at the end is losing an entire fleet of personnel carriers.
    • It's even worse than that, the running gag seems to imply that the kind of mistakes that trigger off the plot aren't even a rare occurrence. Sam took a Personal Carrier. About midway through the movie he's told there's some confusion as to whether it was a Personal Carrier or a Personnel Carrier and by the end of the movie he stands accused of stealing an entire fleet of them. So not only is the plot of Brazil tragic, it's not even uncommon.
  • Schizo-Tech: The future is apparently powered by pneumatic tubes, typewriters, Fresnel lenses, and the omnipresent ducts.
    • The juxtaposition of classic 1920-1930s clothing and equipment (including the type writer and a large slab of the architecture) with computers and modern "Zeerust" technology; what better way to convey the ideals of a dystopic society with a suffocating bureaucracy?
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly.
  • Significant Anagram: 'Ere I am, J.H. = Jeremiah
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The only song in the movie (implied to be the only song in the society itself) is a bouncing Big Band number about love. Perfect for a harsh dystopian satire.
  • Shout-Out: Mr. Kurtzmann, Sam Lowry's neurotic boss, is named after Harvey Kurtzman, the cartoonist who discovered Terry Gilliam.
    • Also Dr. Chapmann, thought to be named after Gilliam's fellow Python, (Dr) Graham Chapman. Both characters had an extra 'n' added to their names to make this less obvious.
      • There's also the various old movies that the characters attempt to enjoy.
    • Both a parody and a Shout-Out: the soldiers marching down the steps after the janitor's contraption a la The Battleship Potemkin. This film knows how to make film lovers laugh too.
    • The soundtrack to the western movie that the clerks surreptitiously watch is the same music that played when Sir Lancelot rampaged through Swamp Castle.
  • Snicket Warning Label
  • Spiritual Successor: Originally pitched as Nineteen Eighty-Four-and-a-half.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "This has not been a recording."
  • Take That: Sidney Sheinberg is credited as "Worst Boy". See Executive Meddling, above.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The film ends with Sam sitting humming to himself after torture, and we then hear him singing the words to the film's Recurring Riff in a mournful tone. When it becomes apparent he's finally escaped the insane and ludicrous world he used to live in, the music segues from morose violins to an impossibly upbeat Latin American dance number. Arguably a subversion since, from where we're sitting, Sam is not in a good place.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: Sam enjoys his moment of rebellion when he and Jill Layton escape from Information Retrieval and make a getaway in her cab... until he spots an innocent bystander a soldier giving chase being slowly burnt to death and realizes how much damage they have caused.
  • Those Two Guys/Those Two Bad Guys: Dowser and Spoor, the two repairmen from Central Services straddle the line between these two tropes.
  • Tomato Surprise: Everything after Jack starts interrogating Sam is a hallucination.
  • Torture Technician: Jack Lint.
  • The Trains Run On Time: Deconstructed; the system isn't actually very efficient at all, but virtually everyone thinks it is.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The film is set "Somewhere in the twentieth century," both futuristic and retro
  • Used Future
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The whole world of the film.
  • Visual Pun: Harry Tuttle, literally consumed by paperwork.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Robert De Niro manages to make a career as an air-conditioning repairman look far more Badass than should be humanly possible.
  • With Friends Like These...: "This is a professional relationship..."
  • Zeerust: invoked deliberately.
  1. although Gilliam admitted to not having read 1984 when he directed Brazil.