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Among many others, one of Terry Gilliam’s trademarks is giving his heroes a fantasy or dream of a beautiful woman they eventually meet in reality. The retro futuristic Brazil is one of his early films depicting this plot as well as revealing many tropes we have become familiar with in Gilliam’s work.

Restless bureaucrat Sam Lowry played by a young Jonathan Pryce is working a hated job, unsatisfied with his current life he dreams and fantasises a better one manifested as a beautiful woman in a Utopian world he himself is a futuristic angel to sweep her off her feet and fly to freedom. The reality is Lowry lives in a dystopian world, which has become too reliant on iffy technology and machinery. Not to mention paranoia of resistant terrorists against the totalitarian government.

The film brings us a dreary backdrop which is very reminiscent of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four without the omniscient Big Brother character. When Lowry discovers a disastrous mistake made by the government involving the death of an innocent man, he can’t ignore the facade made by his own fellow employees. His resistance is driven even more by meeting a young woman Jill Layton played by (Kim Griest) who is the spitting image of his dreams but what the government would accuse as a terrorist.

Lowry allows himself to follow his heart wanting to keep Jill safe he delves into the dark, twisted realms of the government putting his own life into jeopardy.

Written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard, the film reflects many views from the Director who says it’s the ‘craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible’. Although Brazil was released in 1985 and despite the eighties special effects with crazy mechanics we can still relate to the issues addressed especially from a consumer’s point of view where citizens are obsessed with cosmetics and technology. Just like in Gilliam’s fictional world, people want to stay young always involving themselves with everything that’s new, which is scary as so many people become blissfully unaware of the real issues with society and the economy.

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This cult film is a brilliant satire, which depicts many of Gilliam’s famous auteur styles such as his familiar cast, Gilliam likes to keep a family of cast members like many auteurs. As well as Jonathan Pryce there are many stars with small roles however still integral to the story such as Micheal Palin and Katherine Helmond both play absurd characters who we love to hate. The style is an obvious Gilliam trademark, shot with epic wide-angle shots especially in Lowry’s dream sequences. The use of the Dutch tilt in certain shots helps to show the discord of society and Lowry’s dangerous situation.

Gilliam now has a track record of creating retro Sci-Fi films, which always feel like they’ve come straight from the eighties set in a miserable dystopia.

Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Zero Theorem (2013) complete a trilogy which all involve resisting the government through delusions and misinterpreting reality for fiction.

“You have no sense of reality” is a quote from the film said by Jill Layton to Lowry. The film comes to a tragic end, which leaves the audience with a sense of loss and pity. Lowry’s Fantasy becomes so real to him that when all is lost it is the very last thing he can latch onto causing it to take over is existence. In the end Lowry lives inside himself rather than the real world which really taps into the fears of the audience.

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As a film fanatic, I love to write/talk about them as well as making short form films. I aspire to host my own screening events and one day make a feature film.

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