Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) is a hallucinatory depiction of what authoritarian dictatorship would look like in fictional, futuristic United Kingdom; far-right ultra-nationalism exemplified by suppression and regulation. Rigid governmental practices have become the standard operating procedure for desensitized citizens. Jack Lint (Michael Palin) plays a state official making drastic attempts to retrieve information from his “customers”. Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is the epitome of a white-collar employee paying his dues as a contributing member of society; a wheel spinning the great engine. Pryce’s character represents society’s little guy – a routine grinder working within the confines of his office space while daydreaming about love; an officeholding civil servant in an anti-utopic future (or past) “somewhere in the 20th century” who becomes an adversary to the municipal state.
If John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988) is the ultimate Xmas-Action film and Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984) is Xmas Horror – then Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is the equivalent for Xmas Science-Fiction. The backdrop of the Christmas season in Brazil makes its prevalence known from the beginning of the film. Governmental security guards chant Christmas carols with paper decorations and Xmas trees and colorful lights sporadic throughout the film’s production design. A picture like Brazil, where State-run stormtroopers invade your home through cutting a hole in your ceiling; imposing straitjackets followed by threats – a forthcoming dystopia. The grim irony of the film is depicted when a character dressed in a full-blown Santa Claus suit delivers heartbreaking news to Sam about his dream girl. The existence of Christmas celebrations in Brazil serves as a satire; similar to Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) having undertones of parody.
In Brazil, society’s collective subconscious tolerance of terrorism has become customary; grim scenes of ironic terror are handled with nonchalance by the characters. Contemporary public dismissal of mass shootings and/or bombing are synonymous with the characters’ matter-of-fact demeanor in Brazil. Explosions occur in the background of a restaurant as patrons carry on with their fine dining, inches away from fire burns and accidental death. The employees of the cuisine make attempts to conceal the explosion behind tables and curtains; as if the dry wall did not collapse. Brazil is a hallucinatory trip through a netherworld where inhabitants still find a space to celebrate Christmas; a time of care and compassion exists in a world where systemic oppression and radically nationalized governments impose harsh dictatorships on state citizens. Ultimately, Brazil is a significant film because it represents artists. Director Terry Gilliam battled with Universal Pictures over the film’s ending and he got his way. Not only is the film a Science-Fictional satire on a futuristic dystopia, it represents an artist’s fight with a major motion picture studio to maintain the integrity of his creative vision.
Brazil grossed $9,949,953 on a $15 Million budget. It’s available for streaming On Demand in High-def.