A hugely talented but socially isolated computer operator is tasked by Management to prove the Zero Theorem: that the universe ends as nothing, rendering life meaningless. But meaning is what he already craves.
Sam Lowry is a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. While trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Harry Tuttle, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has fingered him responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, and both Sam and Jill's lives are put in danger.Written by
Philip Brubaker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to Maxim Magazine, Terry Gilliam was reportedly so stressed during filming, that he lost all feeling in his legs for a week. See more »
When Sam enters the small room behind Mr. Helpmann's office, a moving shadow on his coat sleeve reveals either a crew member or equipment moving off-screen. See more »
[TV commercial jingle]
Central Services: We do the work, you do the pleasure.
TV commercial pitchman:
Hi, there. I want to talk to you about ducts.
See more »
The closing shot of Lowry incarcerated humming to himself provides the backdrop for the end credits. See more »
The Sid Sheinberg Edit, never released but prepared for syndicated television, makes many significant changes. Several lines of dialogue were changed, using many alternative and unused shots. The movie was edited down to 94 minutes, removing many major scenes, placing more emphasis on Tuttle's character and Sam's relationship with Jill.
The opening Central Services advertisement for ducts stops just before the shop window explodes. It then cuts straight to the restaurant explosion scene, with none of the dialogue leading up to it, beginning only with Shirley offering Sam the salt and the following explosion. The title "Brazil" then appears and the scene ends.
During the prologue in which the fly falls in the typewriter, the scene cuts back and forth to text on a computer screen explaining the plot premise, including a voice over reading it aloud.
All the fantasy sequences are missing, except the scene of Sam flying through clouds - which is shortened and has a glowing effect applied to indicate it is a dream.
Extended dialogue in the scenes where Sam meets Jack at Information Retrieval, before he is distracted by Jill on the TV screens. The screens change to show Jill as she appears in Sam's dreams.
It is never stated that Mr Buttle is dead, only asked by his wife.
When Sam goes to visit Mrs Buttle at Shangri-La Towers, instead of morosely screaming "What have you done with his body?" she begins hitting Sam with paper with the line "Lousy bastard" dubbed over.
Lots of the swearing was dubbed over with tamer dialogue, often very badly. Several of Sam's swears are replaced with "Judas!".
Alternative dialogue in the scene in Jack's office. In this version, Sam puts on the suit earlier before having a conversation with Jack about Tuttle, and Jack's daughter is never shown on screen.
A cut of Casablanca featuring the line "Here's lookin' at you, kid." Right after Sam leaves Kurtzmann's office.
Extended dialogue between Jill and Sam in the truck.
You don't see the guard on fire when the Police vehicle crashes after the truck chase.
When armed guards manhandle Jill after the apartment store explosion, Sam simply picks up a plastic arm from a shop dummy and prepares to fight. The giant samurai warrior is not seen at all in this version.
Extended, more romantic dialogue between Sam and Jill after Tuttle switches the pipes at Sam's flat. Jill explains to Sam that she "looked him up" to find out where he lived.
After Sam is arrested, it cuts straight to the torture chamber scene, as in the US theatrical cut. However, Jack's mask is never explicitly shown and a different, close-up shot is used when Jack confronts Sam in the chair.
After the ministry building is blown up, a 'deleted' form ordering the arrest of Harry Tuttle is shown on screen. The following scene of Tuttle being attacked by paper is then taken out of context, implying the Ministry is eliminating him using supernatural powers (it is not revealed to be a dream in this version).
After Tuttle's disappearance, it cuts immediately to Sam and Jill driving in the truck, with no explanation for how they escaped arrest. There is then a sequence set in the countryside showing Jill on a farm. Sam is shown asleep in bed (re-using a shot from earlier the film). The camera zooms to show a picture on the wall of a winged Sam, before cutting to a dream shot of Sam carrying Jill and flying up into the clouds.
The credits are displayed on a background of clouds. However, the image of Sam sitting in the torture chair is still visible superimposed over it, as seen in the US theatrical cut.
This movie did not leave me with a happy feeling when I was done viewing it, but I definitely found it well worth the time. It posits a dark future world where the government has become a gigantic bureaucratic beast. The simplest exchange requires mountains of paperwork and a strict adherence to procedures has replaced anyone's ability to critically think about what they are doing or stand up to the brutality they know lurks around them. Sam Lowry is a man who seems more than happy to live as a cog in the giant machine. When he sleeps, however, he flies through beautiful blue skies towards the woman of his dreams. As he attempts to correct an "oversight" by the Ministry Of Information for whom he works (one of the more obvious nods to Orwell) which has resulted in an innocent man's death, he finds a woman who appears to be the one in his dreams. The line between his dreams and his reality blur ever further as he goes deeper and deeper into the government machine to find out who she is.
Terry Gilliam once again seems to have spared no expense in making sure every visual element of the world adds up to a cohesive whole which makes you feel as if you're really experiencing the characters' surroundings. And, of course, it is a world rendered realistically enough to feel feasible, and yet surrealistically enough to leave an unforgettable impression on you.
Despite the simplicity of the main plot, the movie is full of subtexts and images which carry a message even though you may not see them on the first viewing. In one scene, a man is buying "clean air" from a vending machine along the street. The sides of the highways are walls of billboards which hide the barren environment beyond. A group of people carry a banner that announces "Consumers for Christ" in a store decorated for the holidays as a small child tells Santa she wants a credit card for Christmas. Actually, therein lies one of the things that may turn some people off to this movie. It seems Gilliam had so many things to say about the state of society today that some people may find the movie lacks a coherent message once it's done. The ending will no doubt come as a shock to many people as well, but it was refreshing to me to see something well outside the Hollywood conventions for a change.
My only real complaint was that Robert De Niro's character was so enjoyable, but saw so little use. Other than that, however, I thought it was a film which presents some compelling things which deserve serious thought, even though most people probably won't be able to get past the trademark Gilliam visual quirkiness to see what he is saying. Eight and a half out of ten from me.
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