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 Buttle, 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 <email@example.com>
Although a huge new Paris apartment complex called Marne la Vallee provided the setting for Sam's Tower Block (Robert De Niro leaps up on a balcony and disappears down a wire cable fourteen stories up), the little figure of Harry Tuttle zipping down a cable was an inch-high lead figure dropping along a wire through a two-foot-high building model. See more »
(Around 11 min.) A shadow of the camera crane can be seen on the wall and automated clothing rack as Sam steps inside the bathroom. 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 only credits at the start of the film were the preliminary studio credits, a credit for Gilliam, and the title. All other credits are at the end. (Although commonplace today, the lack of full opening credits was still unusual in 1985). All versions of the film, including the "Love Conquers All" edit follow this format. See more »
The Criterion LaserDisc and DVD version contains both the Sheinberg/TV/"love conquers all" version and what Terry Gilliam believes to be the "final director's cut" (142 minutes). The Universal "bare-bones" DVD contains only the longer version (though it is misidentified on the DVD cover as the American cut)." See more »
Sam Lowry works within the huge ministry of information in a near-future world of bureaucracy. A simple administration error leads to the death of an innocent man. Lowry finds himself drawn into a world where he is forced to go against the admin world that he works in with devastating results.
This is one of Gilliam's best films (the other being 12 Monkeys). His nightmare vision is complete with wonderful visual touches - some inspired, some very unnerving in their originality. This satire on the world of bureaucracy gone mad has some wonderful elements that don't seem too farfetched - tiny offices, never-ending paperwork, a government so keen to cut costs that people who are arrested are forced to fund their own defence etc. The dream scenes and the romance don't sit too easily beside this element but they help add to the hallucinatory effect of the whole film.
The feeling of paranoia runs wild through the film. Everything in it symbolises the uselessness of trying to work against a unbeatable system and the pointlessness of individual effort - witness Tuttle eventually overcome by the "paperwork" he once resisted. The only problem with the film is that the plot is mostly rubbish, at first it's hidden but in the middle section and the end the holes become obvious.
The cast is mostly excellent despite forced to work with very weird characters. Pryce is brilliant as the quiet bureaucrat pushed into a nightmare by his dreams, although Kim Greist is dull as the focus of his dreams, Jill. The rest of the cast consists of a range of extended cameos including Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins and an excellent Robert De Niro as a guerrilla heating engineer.
The studio bosses wanted an upbeat happy ending to help sales - basically the final 45 seconds had to go. However Gilliam stuck by his guns and produced a film that is visually inspiring whilst being depressingly based in the real world - right up till the final credit has rolled. "Has anyone seen Lowry?" - everyone should.
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