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Brazil (1985)

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A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error and becomes an enemy of the state.

Director:

Terry Gilliam

Writers:

Terry Gilliam (screenplay by), Tom Stoppard (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
1,901 ( 48)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 8 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jonathan Pryce ... Sam Lowry
Robert De Niro ... Harry Tuttle
Katherine Helmond ... Mrs. Ida Lowry
Ian Holm ... Mr. Kurtzmann
Bob Hoskins ... Spoor
Michael Palin ... Jack Lint
Ian Richardson ... Mr. Warrenn
Peter Vaughan ... Mr. Helpmann
Kim Greist ... Jill Layton
Jim Broadbent ... Dr. Jaffe
Barbara Hicks ... Mrs. Terrain
Charles McKeown ... Lime
Derrick O'Connor ... Dowser
Kathryn Pogson Kathryn Pogson ... Shirley
Bryan Pringle ... Spiro
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Storyline

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 <coda@nando.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Suspicion breeds confidence. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some strong violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 December 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Brasil See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$30,099, 22 December 1985, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$9,929,135
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (edited) | (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Singers: [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 »

Crazy Credits

The closing shot of Lowry incarcerated humming to himself provides the backdrop for the end credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in South Park: Go God Go XII (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

As Time Goes By
By Herman Hupfeld
© 1931 (Renewed) Warner Bros Inc. All Rights Reserved.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Intriguing mixture of comedy and dystopia
25 September 2006 | by kylopodSee all my reviews

One of the truest statements about originality in art comes from T.S. Eliot: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." Terry Gilliam is one of cinema's mature poets. His "Brazil" features homages to numerous other films, ranging from "Modern Times" to "The Empire Strikes Back," and its plot is broadly similar to "Nineteen Eighty-Four." Yet the result is intriguingly fresh and creative.

The best adjective to describe the movie's tone is "whimsical." It's the type of sci-fi film with an almost childlike fascination with strange sights and happenings. Rarely has a film so pessimistic been this much fun. Many sci-fi films since "Brazil" have attempted a similar approach, usually with little success. The chief problem with most such films (e.g. "The Fifth Element") is that they get bogged down in plot at the expense of emotional resonance. "Brazil" avoids this fate: while the movie possesses psychological and thematic complexity, its plot is fairly simple, and the humor, quirky as it is, never relies on throwaway gags. Even the oddest moments have a certain poignance.

The story seems to take place in a fascist alternative world. It isn't "the future" exactly. The technology is weird-looking but hardly superior to anything in our world. Money transactions are sent through pipes in what looks sort of like a crude version of ATM. (One of the film's several nods to silent movies occurs after a character tries to stuff one of these pipes with wads of paper.) The pop culture references are positively retro, from the title song to scenes from the film "Casablanca."

The evil of the government in this film is driven not so much by cruelty as by bureaucratic incompetence, much of which is played for laughs. But some of the scenes look eerie today, in our post-9/11 world, and are good fodder for conspiracy theorists. Pay particular attention to the scene where the official boasts that the government is winning its war against "the terrorists." The movie is ambiguous as to whether there are any real terrorists, and we have a sneaking suspicion that the explosions are caused by the government itself. The plot is set in motion by a typographical error leading an innocent man to be arrested instead of a suspected terrorist. The movie is not about this man but about a meek government worker, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who's observing from the sidelines. Robert De Niro has a cameo as the wanted "terrorist" whose crime, from what we see, consists of doing home repairs without the proper paperwork.

I have noticed that most of the classic dystopian tales are fundamentally similar to one another. But "Brazil" approaches the genre in a uniquely psychological way. Sam Lowry is different from the standard protagonist who rebels against the government due to noble motives. He doesn't seem to have any larger goals than his own personal ones. He isn't trying to make the world a better place. He's only longing for a better life for himself, one more exciting and romantic than the humdrum existence he currently occupies, where he's beset by an overbearing mother, a pitiful boss, and a dull job. In the midst of this bureaucratic nightmare state, he cares only about such matters as getting his air conditioning fixed and stalking a female stranger who physically resembles his fantasy woman--or so he perceives. The woman, as played by Kim Greist, appears in his fantasies as a helpless damsel with long, flowing hair and a silky dress who sits in a cage while he battles a giant Samurai warrior. The real-life woman he pursues, also played by Greist, sports a butch haircut, drives a large truck, and has a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth.

It's a testament to Pryce's performance that he commands our total sympathy the whole time. We feel for him and go along with the romantic adventure he attempts to create for himself. His nervous, stammering personality is one that would have been easy to overdo, yet Pryce strikes just the right note, especially as we begin questioning the character's sanity. At one point, another character tells him that "You're paranoid; you've got no sense of reality." But who wouldn't be paranoid in such a setting? The scene brings to mind the old joke that goes "You're not paranoid. Everyone really is out to get you." The movie inhabits such a whacky, surreal world full of strange people and sights that Sam Lowry almost seems sensible by comparison. Creating a character like this was a fresh, innovative twist on a genre that normally loses sight of human personalities.


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