“Its only a state of mind. “

Brazil is arguably the darkest of Gilliam’s films. It does not have a happy ending. In fact it gives the dark, yet somewhat realistic conclusion that the only way out of our society is through death or insanity. The main character, Sam Lowry, rejects society in the best way he can. He leads a boring life with no ambition and need to succeed. Promotions are handed to him (through the many connections of his mother) and he deliberately refuses. He dreams of a woman calling to him and a metallic flame spitting samurai. The samurai could represent the society and the woman freedom. We later find out that the woman in his dreams is also a suspected terrorist and his pursuit of this mystery woman brings him into a whirlwind of problems. The system pursues him.

Brazil described in simple terms is usually described as Orwellian or futuristic. yet if one looks at the film, the scenes are not futuristic at all. The film could however, be considered Orwellian because the time and place is totalitarian. The film is ultimately about Terry Gilliam’s view of our dysfunctional and industrial world.

Gilliam grew up in California in the 1960s. He was a rebel by association. He was a political cartoonist and later became the illustrator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but directed Time Bandits and Jabberwocky on his own. Gilliam had a profound fear of America and its political state in the 1960s, “I became terrified that I was going to be a full-time, bomb-throwing terrorist if I stayed (in the U.S.) Because it was the beginning of really bad times in America. It was ’66–’67, it was the first police riot in Los Angeles.” A constant theme throughout Gilliam’s film career is escapism and the power of storytelling. He values imagination and creativity over power and wealth. Time Bandits is about a boy who escapes his boring, suburban life by following a group of little people on trips through time. The later Adventures of Baron Munchhausen is about a man who teaches a girl the benefit of storytelling in a time of repression or violence. Brazil has similar themes from Gilliam’s other films. It’s about a man who is part of this totalitarian society, but dreams for a life of freedom and fantasy.

Gilliam has never been concerned whether his films were financially successful; in fact he does quite the opposite. He has become notorious for his flops. Artistically this isn’t a bad thing, but he could rarely have a film funded. That means the mainstream didn’t love and accept it immediately. In an interview with Criterion, Gilliam declared he would rather have his films be more like Kubrick than Spielberg. He would rather have people feud over his films and have very strong opinions on them than all agree and forget about his films. Some find Gilliam’s spastic vision to be too much to enjoy. His array of images melds the real with the really unreal. The world of Brazil attacks the viewer’s senses with a cultural and visual overload. Some say the film didn’t know where to end. The film would have such a scattered plot that there are multiple places for climaxes and resolutions, but the film explores this many narrative in life and ends with the most final climax in life, death.

Brazil is a film that can only be grasped with multiple views like any Kubrick film or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The symbolism and imagery is so dense it’s hard to capture all at  once. Hollywood has no patience for these films. They are not economically profitable. Aesthetic and cultural profits have no room in business. The films were great cut from its original and screened to terrible reviews, but when the original version was screen some called it the best film of the year.  Historians, filmmakers, later discovered the film and film buffs as one of the best films in many years. They compared it  to other great political satires like Dr. Strangelove. It has since developed a cult following that praises its braveness and persistence to achieve the exact vision of the director, at any cost.

The scene form the above photo: