Brazil, Embassy International Pictures/Universal, 1985.

Before watching the movie:

This is a film I’m not so much looking forward to seeing as having seen. I’ve read summaries of the plot before, and the only thing that made sense was how bleak and depressing it is.

I know Terry Gilliam makes weird, often bleak films, so I can’t say I expect to be proven wrong, but at least it should be funny, or else darkly satirical.

Why else did I choose this film? Well, I needed a 1985 movie for related reasons I can’t disclose at this time, and this was very handy.

During/after the film:

Jonathan Pryce plays Sam Lowry, who lives in an oppressive bureaucratic nightmare state, but is completely happy in his low-stationed life as an information-processing clerk until, while tidying up a minor government mistake connected to a larger error, he accidentally meets the woman he’s been dreaming about for months. He works inside and outside the system to be with her, breaking all the rules, breaking through the walls of status quo, and learning who the real terrorists are. I wish it was really as inspiring as that sounded.

This film is unashamed to be, as Terry Gilliam said, “the 1984 for 1984.” The oppression of the bleak monolithic society overshadows everything, even the layers upon layers of absurdity the end reaches. The story is first dark comedy, then action drama, then complete chaos. Sam is a dreamer, and like a dream, the story destabilizes madly as it progresses, and you’re left wondering what, if anything, is really happening. The first half seems to have a message, but it gets exaggerated so much that it ultimately becomes meaningless.

Jonathan Pryce does “discombobulated” very well, but he spends far too much of the film having to play it. Perhaps as much as half of the two and a half hours of the story has Sam being tossed about like a ragdoll by circumstance. It’s a  necessary part of the story that he’s lost control, but he’s just totally agog at it for a grating amount of time.

There’s a large supporting cast of wonderful British actors, many of whom I recognize either by name or face or both. The British film industry is refreshing in that a lot of fine actors get recognition for their ability, but the roles they get can be any size without having them inflated for “The Big Name.”

The final stroke of Dada on this film is the name. “Brazil” comes from the name of the theme, which is “Aquarela de Prasil” (Watercolor of Brazil). I have no idea why it was chosen to be the theme and important enough to title the film after.

Altogether, this film is well-executed madness. I don’t understand a good portion of it, but it’s meant to be insane. It brings the viewer in with a fun tweak at bureaucracy and then turns it over and shows the dark side of a world gone wrong. I’m glad I saw it, and maybe I’ll even see it again someday.

See this movie: for the great acting all around.

Don’t see this movie: if chronic daydreaming is contagious.

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