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>
In preparation for the role, Robert De Niro witnessed neurologists performing brain surgery, because he likened his character's job to that of a brain surgeon. See more »
When Sam enters his apartment after the Central Services had frozen it, his shoulders bump into some "ice" that is hanging from pipes. You can clearly see that the "ice" is made out of rubber. 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 »
Sidney Sheinberg's name is listed in the credits next to Worst Boy. Terry Gilliam and Sheinberg fought notoriously over the content and release of the film. See more »
In the European or director's version, when Sam goes back to the MOI building after taking Jill to his mother's apartment, action between his conversation with Dawson in the lobby and his walk down the stairs is missing, so we don't see his mode of action and we miss a revealing near-encounter with Harvey Lime. See more »
Regarding the symbolism in Brazil, of course that's the point. Lowry's dreams are not all that unique. They are a result of the regimented world he lives in. Look at all of our modern films: the two dominant characters are the rebel and the ordinary joe living a mundane life who somehow escapes from it or begins to do outrageous things.
(That's why I hated Titanic, well, partially. Rose is breaking out of her supposedly constricted life. It's propaganda. It makes it appear that the "freedoms" we have now are exactly what we need in order to escape from the restriction of prejudices and ignorance. Rose tied herself into the ever-growing strait-jacket of modern political myths. But in order to glorify those myths Cameron had to denigrate our past and all that it stood for, making its adherents look like chauvinistic fools. The person I know who liked Titanic the most liked it for that reason - she wanted to escape from her own life and envied Rose. But such people always stop there. They live in their fantasies and never stop to investigate why they feel their lives must be escaped from.)
Another note about the samurai he fights is that it continued to suddenly disappear. Lowry initially didn't know what he was fighting, for one. There really is no definitive enemy to fight. We are boxing shadows. It is a system which has no heart or kill point. That's part of the frustration, particularly for those who can't think abstractly. Most of them lash out at "the media." They can't locate who they're fighting, and so they accept the lies.
Listen to the opening interview on the television. The terrorists are refusing to "play the game." The assumption is that they are simply jealous because someone else is "winning the game." Why play at all? Any hope of that is over though. The 60s was the last gasp of opposition and it got swallowed up. Now the nostalgia for protest is a marketing tool. Consumption is a replacement for thought. When you feel angst you go shopping. We've been convinced that our anxiety is caused by something other than what it really is. Commercials are not about self-gratification, but self-doubt.
I read an interview with Gilliam in which he said the reason he could no longer live in America is that there was an unwillingness to think about anything. In the end, you are fighting the conditioning you have received from your entire culture, in essence, fighting yourself and struggling to regain control of your own mind. Parallels between Lowry seeing his own face and Skywalker seeing the same in Return of the Jedi are illuminating.
The point that Gilliam makes in the end is that the enemy is ubiquitous yet intangible. Lowry wanted to run from it, go "far away," never realizing that you can't escape. We still think in terms of a locus of power. But Gilliam, throughout the last part of the film, continually crushed our naive hopes that somehow we can act out the fantasy that many of us may have, to get away, find the girl of our dreams and live in a trailer in a beautiful setting.
Because we have no fear of physical control, we assume that we are free. Some Americans still believe in the myth of rugged individualism. The system is built on lies and that's what Gilliam was showing. It's a "State of mind." You can't escape. The only place that you can be free is in your head. "He got away from us," as they say at the end. That's really the only hope we have left.
On a lighter note, I derive so much glee from watching Lowry's mother walk around with a boot on her head.
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