By Patric Laneuville Châlons*. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (SUBJECT: CONTACT PATRIC)
If we say that we are before a film of the well-known subgenre “Orwellian surrealist dystopias multicolored tragicomedies” (Unclassifiable recalcitrant”, to friends) they will think that the film only fits in there. And they will be correct, of course. Oh, excuse me: Dystopia is the antithesis of utopia, a negative utopia in which the supposedly historical happenings that are narrated flow through sinister, oppressive channels. Oh, science fiction? Well, also that.
Just like we said that Contact would be (and was) a film that a group of brilliant scientists would make, Brazil is the film that the most brilliant and mad group of humorists in the history of film would excrete (and did), drunk on top of it! (in this case, one of them). In spite of the alcoholic finish, erase from the syllogism the word “improvisation” and substitute it for “genius”. Brazil is total surrealist dali-esque brilliance, canned up into 142 minutes. Nominated for the Oscar for best original screenplay; that was spare change. Fabulous photography, by the way.
Actor Jonathan Pryce excellently plays the role of a diligent technocrat (the protagonist Sam Lowry), and almost by osmosis, transmits his confusion to the viewer before a visual and plotline delirium that perpetrated the exPython, nearing intellectual minor offense, without doubt. Robert De Niro (Tuttle) does little, but as always, does it “to the tee”: Conspirator against the system from his cover-up as a pirate heater, he appears and reappears like the Guadiana, when you least expect it, sometimes humming “Brazil”, sometimes scheming to bomb the system from within together with his followers of the “resistance”. His disappearances, epic, under the glorious chords, slipping away by a cable between mile-away buildings. A complete casting of a group of highly competent actors, many of whom can be highlighted, for example, a sensational Bob Hoskins, who personalizes the gears of the absurd bureaucratic machine that oppresses them.
“In some place in the twentieth century” is where/when the events happen. But an anti-uchronic twentienth century, industrial, bureaucratic, and that without a doubt, missed (from parallel universes), the train of the digital revolution: in this alternative reality Gates and Jobs shouldn’t exist… or if so, they would end up filling out the 27b/53 form to apply to create an innovative new business. The analog prevails, the mechanical does whatever it wants, usually badly greased, strident. In the universe of “Brazil” no one knows of WD40, no one even damn well needs it. Death to software, long live the creaking unkempt hardware.
The visual deed, the imaginative waste that constitutes “Brazil” reaches the apotheosis of oniric baroque style, that completes the other two parts of the (arguable) trilogy- according to their director- “Time Bandits”(1981) and “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (1989). The unreal atmosphere, the feeling of “they’ve changed my world”, is breathed from the first shot on. We are before a parallel reality, monitored by an all powerful Ministry of Information, where the walking caricatures are average citizens, practicing impassively, as if made of stones in a monstrously bureaucratic world.
The exPython came out with this delirious film in 1985, so dense it can be chewed, that like Memento, requires many viewings in order to capture all the details, the ironies (some places in the cement filled world and some civil servants have bucolic names: Shangri-La, Green Pastures, etc), all the action happens in the background. The director, Terry Gilliam, prepares to create this tetra dimensional film from a battery with almost infinitesimal resources, human, material, but above all plotline: “Yes/No” pendulums for decision making, army men with Nazi aesthetics singing Christmas carols (“this isn’t a si bemol”) hats/shoe (and shoes/hat?) like that of the selfish and plastified protagonists’ mother. (Strangely similar to a certain Spanish Duchess)… In a film whose development strengthens in a dead fly that covers up the writing of a last name on a paper…, anything is possible. Like in Blade Runner, an entire micro universe was designed, a Brazil-esque auto sufficient reality.
This nano universe is harsh, cruel, violent, macabre, eschatological, and gory on some occasions. To the human group that dislocated our jaw in “Life of Brian”, no one beats their disgusting taste, when they feel like pulling it out. And if not, they can ask the obese man who literally explodes because of a candy bar in “The Meaning of Life” (1983). In the movie (?) that we are fighting with now, children play with weapons but ask Santa Claus for credit cards. The armed forces enjoy beating up the common man, shooting first and asking questions later, but they are incapable of acting without the regulatory papers that back them up. The terrorist attacks leave anybody torn to pieces but if it didn’t happen to you, continue the conversation where you left off and calmly finish your grilled steak (ice-cream scoop style); a simple screen separates the horror of hedonism and appeases the conscious while the musicians keep playing, like on the Titanic while it was sinking. In spite of necrophilia not being practiced – but mentioned – don’t let your children see it until they are 35.
Nevertheless, in the time bomb about to explode, which is “Brazil” (or that explodes in the face of the viewer?) love has a place, it exists in a small field, a break in the cement like the feelings expressed by Stendhal. Jill Layton (Kim Greist) is the fortunate one that the protagonist falls in love with, first in his dreams, then in reality, like the surrealist canons stipulate. Both look for freedom but with different focuses. He wants to escape from that reality with her: “We’ll go somewhere” Her: “There is nowhere, it’s never far enough”. The only free spaces are the lingerie section and the billboards that advertise green paradises, totally impossible in that toxic microcosm, the polluted and suffocating world that is “Brazil”. In any case, an “I Love You” written on the windshield softens the girl; in that monstrous world feelings still exist…but on the side.
The peak of the system is the Ministry of Information Retrieval, centralized in a colossal building of 84 floors, neo-nazi style, industrial, in whose hallways circulate the main boss Warren and his entourage of desperate bureaucrats: “Tell him yes, tell him no”. The bureaucracy consumes a fourth of the PIB but weigh down the machinery of the system in an unforgivable way: Nothing, in truth, works as it should. The documents go up and down, ostentatiously in pipes that metaphorically represent a system that collapses with the minutest unexpected occurrence. The useless boss, Sam Lowry, Mr. Kurzmant, drown in a glass of water, when they don’t know what to do with a check that needs to be refunded to a dead man: Great Greek Tragedy. The elevators are too slow, the offices ridiculous, oblong and the machines showy, brusque, kafka-esque- they constantly break down. The covers don’t fit where they should: “They’ve gone back to the Metric system without telling us”. The need for a 27b/6 form detains the bad guys from perpetrating their misdeeds: “We’ll be back, stupid son of a bitch”. The waiters are incapable of serving a rare steak if the correct code isn’t specified: “You have to tell me the number.” Oh yeah, if they detain you, you have to sign a receipt.
But the onirical universes are the real protagonists of the film, the surrealist broken language that is spoken in “Brazil”. “You won’t get anywhere with a suit like that” (and he gives him another one, the same but one shade less grey). “Identical twins? No, triplets”: “Triplets? My, how time flies.” An enormous samurai, lead, metallic, silent, impersonal appears and disappears in the dreams of the narcoleptic Sam Lowry, amalgamated to his love, and he tries to kill her, upon taking off her millennial mask, he himself appears, but also a police officer transfigures, Freud-like, into himself. A shirt of force for the director and some discount bonos for the psychiatrists of the selfless spectators, please. And speaking of cushioned rooms, when the all-powerful Mr. Hellman, dressed up as Santa Claus, presents himself and the protagonist says: “I know how you feel. That’s why I brought you barley water”. Of course.
To finish, we recommend that you see this mad film, this work of art that is written for he who writes, this Great Orwellian Brother reinterpreted by someone with an excess of dopamine in his brain. And we recommend it especially for that 6% of the total population that is mentally sane: After seeing it they will cross the line, don’t doubt it. On the other side it’s great, really. Oh, and to the rest who also see it: “Brazil” will be the edge of your psychiatric pathologies.
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MEMENTO. FORBIDDEN PLANET. TIME MACHINE. BRAZIL. 2001. MINORITY REPORT. CONTACT