A weekly look at the essential films that any genre fan really should see…

Brazil (1985)
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown | Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Jonathan Pryce… Sam Lowry
Robert De Niro… Harry Tuttle
Katherine Helmond… Mrs. Ida Lowry
Ian Holm… Mr. Kurtzmann
Bob Hoskins… Spoor
Michael Palin… Jack Lint
Kim Greist… Jill Layton

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

JACK: Information transfer got the wrong man. I got the right man. The wrong man was delivered to me as the right man. I accepted him on good faith as the right man. Was I wrong?

The movie is seen through the eyes of Sam Lowry, an information retrieval specialist for a futuristic totalitarian state. His mother, Ida, is intent on using her connections to get him promoted, but he is perfectly happy where he is. Sam’s life begins to change with poetic simplicity: when he sees the girl of his dreams. Sam also meets Tuttle, who introduces himself as a freelance air conditioner repairman, but who is actually attempting to destroy the government. The movie cherishes Sam’s gradual descent toward revolution. His desire to be with Jill, a woman he has dreamed of but never met before, causes him to manipulate his position in order to find her, and ultimately try to protect her.

Why It’s Must-See: A fanciful piece of dystopian nightmare, this movie is an impassioned piece of cinematic creativity. Clever use of basic storytelling effects combined with an acerbic style of humor and some impressive visual scenery make this fim simply delightful.

Romance Factor: Absolutely! The film periodically displays dreamed images of breathtaking beauty, where Sam flies through the air in the attempt to save an imagined woman who looks like his sudden new love.

Box Office: The movie made $9.9 million, on an estimated $15 million budget. Tragic!

Critical Reception: The film has a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and frequently appears high up on lists of the best sci-fi films of all time.

Influence: As well as inspiring much Steampunk sensibility, the film is also a noted influence on such acclaimed films as Delicatessen (1991) and The City of Lost Children (1995) and Dark City (1998). Brazil also influenced Sucker Punch (2011), somewhat less successfully.

Notable Merchandise: There are T-shirts, of course, befitting such a cult classic, and several home media releases, including one with bonus footage.

On the Page: For years before the film’s release, Terry Gilliam was locked in a disagreement with US studio head Sid Sheinberg, who wanted to recut the film due to poor audience testing. This contest is recounted in The Battle for Brazil, by Jack Matthews. Gilliam’s 142-minute version was released internationally, while a 132-minute version made it into US cinemas after Gilliam took out a full-page ad in Variety and conducted private screenings for critics — who declared it the best film of the year.

Did You Know? Not only is Brazil the second in Terry Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination” (sandwiched between 1981’s Time Bandits and 1988’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), it is also the first installment in the filmmaker’s “Dystopian Satire Trilogy,” followed by Twelve Monkeys (1995) and The Zero Theorem (2013).


About the author


Jason Luna is a Contributing Writer to Geek Speak Magazine.