What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Terry Gilliam’s Brazil? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins
Director: Terry Gilliam
Production Co: Embassy International Pictures
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Brazil’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Brazil, directed by sketch comedian Terry “Monty” Python from the legendary Python Brothers. The film follows a government stooge named Sam Lowry, whose meaning of life is to dream of flying circuses — his holy grail. He lives in a strange, dystopian version of Earth where the primary technological achievement is the magnifying glass. Due to a bug in the system, the government jails an innocent man named Buttle instead of a terrorist named Tuttle. I mean, I guess the “T” and “B” keys are sort of near each other on human keyboards, but still, get it together guys.
While trying to smooth things over with Buttle’s widow, Sam encounters her neighbor Jill, who in addition to always playing that damn rock and roll music at all hours, bears a striking resemblance to the female lead from his dreams. Unfortunately she runs away before he has the chance to creepily leer at her. Also, Sam meets the real Tuttle, an Italian air conditioner repairman with a penchant for Irish goodbyes. In order to more effectively Facebook stalk Jill, Sam accepts a position as the government’s social media intern. None of that matters though, because as everyone knows, the best way to find someone is by running into them accidentally at the office. He tries to kidnap his way into Jill’s heart, but Jill doesn’t go for all that mushy stuff. She doesn’t care about flowers or chocolate-covered flowers. She likes guys who get hit by trucks. And she really likes guys who help her fake her own death.
But their romantic weekend is ruined when Sam is arrested for his necrophilia. He’s about to be tortured when suddenly Tuttle and his terrorist friends bungee jump in and rescue the shit out of him. Then everything gets all surreal and dreamlike, what with Tuttle disappearing into a swirl of papers and Sam falling through a coffin into a black chasm of nothingness, etc. etc. This goes on for a while until — surprise! It was all a dream. Sam is still back there being tortured, and the film has gone on so long it’s driven him insane. But hey, at least he still remembers the theme song! Brazil is a parody of 20th century governments, which grew bloated and expensive due to bureaucracy and sugary soda. In the film, the Ministry is so caught up in its own administrative procedures that even the paperwork requires paperwork, which in turn requires… you guessed it, paperwork.
All the ducts everywhere symbolize the inefficiency of the state as well as the glaring need for duct tape — Earth’s #1 tape for over five thousand years. They create a maze of endless routing, just like the labyrinth of government agencies that shuffle petitioners from place to place until they finally just give up and die like the puny mortals they are. This inefficiency enables the government to grow unchecked like a mole on your back, all while sheltering its agents from accountability with metaphorical sunscreen. And in a system where such disorganization benefits those in power, efficiency is considered a crime. And not a fun, victimless crime like torrenting. When Tuttle pokes around in Sam’s wires without the requisite paperwork, he is undermining the very soft, silky fabric of society. However, Sam’s final dream sequence suggests that even Tuttle, who seemingly transcended the system, is ultimately smothered by it. That or he just likes paper mache.
The characters lack any meaningful connection with each other, which is symbolized by their tendency to communicate through barriers and holes instead of neuro-melding their brainwaves with iCloud. This alienation erodes their sense of empathy, grinding it down into a vestigial little nub on the bottom of their souls. At first, Sam exemplifies this behavior. When a bomb explodes in the restaurant, it’s only a minor inconvenience to him. But as Sam begins to break free from the system, his empathy increases. At a later bomb explosion, he actually pays attention and learns to stop and smell the sulfur. The film suggests that empathy is itself a form of subversion. The government can only get away with its crimes when people are pitted against each other. In other words, their natural state. The title of the film and its theme song suggest an exotic place to which one can escape and practice his Portuguese. Characters use fantasy to access this refuge, either through the nostalgia of classic films, or in Sam’s case, his reductive messiah complex. But in the end, the only way for Sam to find permanent respite from government oppression is through insanity. And that’s a plan just crazy enough to work.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Ciao.