- Central Services phone operator to Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce)
"You can't make a move without a form."
- Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro) to Sam
Rolling Stone - 12/14/1998
"...Gilliam creates this dehumanizing universe with demented wit, sane anger and the most eye-popping visuals since METROPOLIS..."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/15/1996
"...Landmark retro-future tragicomedy..." -- Rating: A+
New York Times - 12/18/1985
"...BRAZIL, a jaunty, wittily observed vision of an extremely bleak future, is a superb example of the power of comedy to underscore serious ideas, even solemn ones....Ambitious visual style..."
Los Angeles Times - 06/10/1992
"...It's a knockout..."
Total Film - 07/01/2003
"...It's rich in irony, steeped in surrealism and touched with genius....Easily one of the greatest movies of the '80s..."
Sight and Sound - 08/01/2003
Entertainment Weekly - 07/08/2011
"Gilliam's belief in the evil of banality is on full display here, made all the more dazzling by Norman Garwood and Maggie Gray's Oscar-nominated art direction." -- Grade: B+
BRAZIL is Terry Gilliam's masterpiece. Cowritten by Gilliam, playwright Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown, the cult-favorite film is set in a futuristic society laden with red tape and bureaucracy. When a bug (literally) gets in the system, an innocent man is killed, leading mild-mannered Sam Lowry (an excellent Jonathan Pryce) to reexamine what he wants out of life. He decides to fight the totalitarian system in his search for freedom--and the woman he loves. The terrific, offbeat cast features Robert De Niro as a renegade heating engineer; Katherine Helmond as Sam's ever-younger mother; Michael Palin as a government-sanctioned torturer with a distaste for upsetting the status quo; Bob Hoskins as a vengeful Central Services employee; Jim Broadbent as a wacko plastic surgeon; the wonderful Ian Holm as Sam's nerve-ridden, pitiful boss, afraid of his own signature; and Kim Greist as the rebel Sam falls for.
The look of BRAZIL is relentless, overwhelming, and outrageously spectacular. Giant monoliths rise from the street; government offices are a network of computers, pneumatic tubes, and narrow hallways built with Nazi-like precision; and apartment complexes are a maze of washed-out grays and numbers, all frighteningly uniform. The terrorist explosions actually bring color into this dull, monochramatic world. BRAZIL is a nightmare vision of the future, yet also hysterically funny and incisive, one of the most inventive, influential, and important films of the 1980s.
In this darkly comic view of the coming future, bureaucratic cog Sam Lowry dreams of escaping the totalitarian machine that society has become. He fantasizes about joining a beautiful woman flying through the clouds, far away from this world. One day he glimpses a female truck driver who resembles his fantasy and he attempts to win her love--but he ends up being dragged into the underworld of antigovernment terrorists and radicals. Terry Gilliam's vision, both expensive and expansive, resulted in a battle with studio executives over the lack of commercial potential of the darkly humorous, but often grim, material that was reedited for theatrical release without the director's approval.
Black Comedy |
Cult Film |
Essential Cinema |
Love Story |
Prison / Prisoners |
Released for one week in New York City and Los Angeles on December 18, 1985, to qualify for Academy Award nominations. Received a general release on February 14, 1986.
Filmed at Lee International Studios in Wembley, London's Dockland, a south London power station, a Kent oil refinery, and the Palais d'Abraxis apartment complex in Marne-La-Valee in Paris.
After the production could no longer afford to shoot in Lee International Studios, they filmed the fantasy sequences right behind the studio--ironically, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, a place, according to Gilliam, "where all the paperwork in Britain was stored."
Estimated budget: $15 million. Universal Pictures supplied $9 million of that budget but nearly shelved the project because of president Sidney Sheinberg's feeling that the film was too long and too depressing. When BRAZIL won the Los Angeles Critics Best Film Award anyway, Universal was forced to release it to the public.
The film's original running time of 142 minutes was cut to 131 minutes for its American release.
The title was taken from the 1930's Xavier Cugat hit "Aquarela do Brasil," written by Ary Barroso, which appears frequently in the film. Variety reported that director Terry Gilliam wanted to call the film 1984 1/2 instead of BRAZIL.
Named Best Film of 1985 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
According to the opening scene, the film begins at 8:49 a.m., "somewhere in the 20th century."
Among the Ministry of Information's sayings are Information: the key to prosperity; The truth shall make you free; Suspicion breeds confidence; Happiness: We're all in it together; Trust in haste--regret in leisure; Don't suspect a friend...report him; and Who can you trust'
Terry Gilliam worked for a man named Harvey Kurtzman when he was employed at a magazine in New York; Sam Lowry's boss in BRAZIL is named Kurtzmann.
Charles McKeown cowrote the script and appears in the film as Lime, which is quite possibly a reference to the character of Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN .
Terry Gilliam's wife, Maggie Weston, is credited with hair and makeup design.
Holly Gilliam, one of their two daughters, plays Holly.
Percussionist Ray Cooper, who is credited as music co-ordinator, appears in the film as a technician.
Terry Gilliam regular Julian Doyle is credited as the second unit director and with model & effects photography.
Don't miss Katherine Helmond's riotously disturbing facelift scene--every time she is on camera she looks much younger.
Gilliam considered BRAZIL to be a cross between Walter Mitty and Franz Kafka.
"I've always had a great distaste for authority and bureaucracy and all the additives that they breed," Gilliam has said.
The film had a number of endings that Gilliam fought over with Universal, who wanted a happy ending to bring in more of an audience.
Gilliam said of the film, "Port Talbot is a steel town, where everything is covered with a grey iron ore dust. Even the beach is completely littered with dust, it's just black. The sun was setting, and it was really quite beautiful. The contrast was extraordinary. I had this image of a guy sitting there on this dingy beach with a portable radio, tuning in these strange Latin escapist songs like 'Brazil.' The music transported him somehow and made his world less grey."