More often than not, films riddled with production issues tend to either be failures or box-office bombs. Most film buffs know about the catastrophic productions that 1980's Heaven's Gate and 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie went through before finally being released. While Brazil did experience its fair share of production hardships, it did, however, turn into something exceptional in that regard.
In my humble opinion, the 1980s were a somewhat disappointing era for film. Yes, there were some all-time masterpieces to come out of the era, primarily The Thin Blue Line and Raging Bull. Yet, there was also a surplus of popcorn-grabbing garbage flicks and films made solely for the purpose of money or merchandise. Sometimes though, small or foreign films would emerge and demolish any other competition in its way. In my mind, Brazil is one of those films.
It's a hard task to explain Brazil's plot, not because it's bad or anything but because it flows in a unique way. Initially, the plot unwinds with Sam (Johnathan Pryce) trying to find the whereabouts of a person mistaken for a criminal. Meanwhile, Sam keeps dreaming about a woman, and while searching for the person he was ordered to find, he manages to find a woman that looks exactly like the one in his dreams.
Brazil manages to be one of a very few number of films that manages to accomplish greatness in both a unique style and story, alongside some of the all-time greats like Vertigo and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gilliam frequently boasts unique visuals alongside expertly crafted sequences. Notably, the dinner scene towards the beginning of the film. It opens with a dystopian and authoritarian restaurant when suddenly a bomb blows up leaving fire and debris everywhere. Contrary to common human behavior, the attendees just sit and pretend like nothing ever happened. This single scene represents a fraction of the message the film is trying to express. Likewise, nearly every other scene in the movie heavily contributes to the anti-totalitarian message Gilliam so expertly explores.
Brazil is just as relevant today as it was back in 1985. It lectures primarily on surveillance and pretentiousness in a narrative filled with that. Gilliam warns of the dangers of an overabundance of surveillance and "hovering." The narrative argues that humans are treated like animals when supervised by surveillance 24-7. The scene involving the workers only doing their job when their boss steps outside his room cleverly mocks the nature of surveillance. Alongside this, Gilliam satirizes the pretentiousness deep down in the fabric of the human mind. One phrase that seems to constantly be spoken by any government worker/official is "We don't make mistakes." However, Gilliam argues that they do indeed make mistakes and is exemplified by what kicks off the narrative in the first place. This dystopian society shines a spotlight on the many mistakes any society or human being for that matter can come to, and in the process cements why exactly Brazil is so highly regarded. I'm taking off the 8 points only because the mistake at the beginning of the film is clearly a MacGuffin. Apart from that, Brazil is essential for any lover of film or stories about dystopian societies.
Time Stamp: December 2020