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Movies, Reviews

Brazil

06.06.07 | 1 Comment

I finally saw Terry Gilliams Brazil the other day, only 20-odd years after it came out. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a while – as evidence, I’m still thinking about it three days later.

Brazil tells the story of Sam Lowry, by day a lowly clerk in the department of records, a cog in the massive machine of state. But when he sleeps Lowry dreams of being a knight, a rebel who fights for what’s good and true. And he dreams of an angel. It’s when he finally meets this dream woman that his life goes off the rails.

This movie draws obvious inspiration from Orwell’s 1984, but where the state in that book was all-knowing and all-powerful, in Brazil the state is just as efficient as in real life.

Unlike 1984, there’s a happy ending of sorts. In Orwell’s book, Winston Smith decides that the only free land that the state can’t control is the space between his ears – his mind is his own. But he’s wrong. In the end Big Brother owns even that.

But the superstate in Brazil is like 1984‘s bumbling little brother, and when Sam realizes that he’s wrecked his life and several others, when he realizes that his quest to be himself and to rebel against the state will cost him all he has, he flees to the only place he has left.

He flees into his own mind.

And lives happily ever after.

In Brazil.

POSTSCRIPT: I was watching a Tivo’ed episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation last night, and fast forwarding through the commercials, when for some reason I stopped to watch one. It was a new Visa commercial, where shoppers spin and twirl in perfect synchronicity – until one of them pays with a check, and the whole clockwork procession grinds to a halt.

The original commercial was set in a diner to the song “Powerhouse”. This new commercial is set at the florist’s. As I listened to the music, I realized it sounded familiar. A few more notes and I thought “Holy CRAP!” – the song was “Brazil”.

So, as a melody for a commercial that showed people happily acting as cogs in a machine, they chose the theme song from a movie about the dehumanizing effects of modern life. I suspect someone at their ad agency has a subversive sense of humor.

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