Don’t Suspect A Friend—Report Him
August 7, 2013 9:00 PM   Subscribe

 
The genius of Brazil is this: there are no villains. The little guys on the bottom, struggle to just get through the day, through a maze of conflicting rules and regulations. And the big guys at the top? They live in terror of the little guys below them. It's a monstrous structure that breeds the worst in everyone.
posted by SPrintF at 9:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the man who tortures his friend to maintain his place in the system can be thought of as a 'villain', though lately torture isn't greeted with the distate in pop culture as it used to be.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:13 PM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


One of my favourite movies. Thanks for the post.

Although I haven't read the links, I would argue that the nightmare of Brazil has indeed very much arrived.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


But he's Michael fucking Palin, man.

Just doing his job.

It's a professional relationship.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:29 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, I'd argue that "the nightmare of Brazil" has partly arrived, but things have changed... which is why Gilliam's upcoming movie "The Zero Theorem" (of which I saw a preview and a trailer when they were recently - dare I say it? - leaked) looks like a solid effort to bring the nightmare more in sync with today's nightmares...

also this one has Matt Damon as "Management", who barely appeared in the clips I saw... interesting follow-up to "Elysium" for him :)
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is that Sam is utterly complicit in torture as well. The plot is kicked off by him trying to give a refund cheque to the widow of a wrongly imprisoned man who died under torture. He treats it like a mildly difficult administrative problem. He's friends with Jack and knows exactly what Jack's job is. He advances because his father was a senior figure in the same bureaucracy.

We sympathize with Sam because we're made to see his inner life and his struggles. I think it's a mistake to think of him as good though.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


For some reason, despite having known better for years and years, I always first mentally picture Terry Gilliam as Terry Jones when reading about him and have to correct myself.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:48 PM on August 7, 2013


Listen, MetaFilter, we're all in it together.
posted by wensink at 10:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The open letter Gilliam put out that the keynote article calls "embarrassing" seems pretty awesome and ballsy to me.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:22 PM on August 7, 2013


So, a couple of weeks ago, I'm visiting DC for the first time. I'm in the train station about to leave after a weekend of sightseeing, and I'm watching on the television a paranoid-safety-video - you know the type, where they talk about suspicious packages, unattended bags, and then people behaving suspiciously, and it goes on and on and on. Then, at the end of it, the announcer says "Remember, we're all in it together."

So the for the next day or two my mind was struggling to figure out if this was some sort of coincidence, or (as I gleefully hoped) the producers of this video wanted to slip in a slightly subversive message, some sort of code that their bosses would never get, something to let the public know that they were part of producing some fear-inducing propaganda bullshit, but we should all open our eyes.

We're all in it together.

posted by el io at 10:26 PM on August 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


The open letter Gilliam put out that the keynote article calls "embarrassing" seems pretty awesome and ballsy to me.

I don't think they mean it was an embarrassment to him, they mean he was embarrassing Sheinberg with it. An "embarrassing letter" with an active verb, like "dunning letter" or "harrassing phone call".

The book The Battle of Brazil which is mentioned in these links is very worth reading as an insight as to the sheer fuckwittery Hollywood can provide. It's also darkly hilarious as only nonfiction can be.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:31 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if I'm not the Harry Tuttle of internet service in Toronto. Like, the incumbent cable internet provider (Rogers) refuses to upgrade modem firmware for the small companies that share their network (by government mandate). So, I use cable modem hacking tools and techniques to do legitimate firmware upgrades. A very "Brazilian" situation.

I guess authorities would have to actually come after me though, before I can compare :)
posted by Chuckles at 10:32 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


We sympathize with Sam because we're made to see his inner life and his struggles. I think it's a mistake to think of him as good though.

He's trying to help Jill, who is essentially a whistleblower, find out what happened to her neighbor and prevent her from getting arrested as a terrorist for pointing out the mistakes of the bureaucracy.

It's very scary to me that you are conflicted on this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:06 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's trying to help Jill

But He's trying to get into Jill's pants, so this really isn't so good.. Sam does decide to opt out of the seriously unethical career opportunities though, and he makes his opt out workplace more livable for his coworkers. That isn't bad for a bit player in a big machine.
posted by Chuckles at 11:12 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think the point of the film is who is good or evil. It is, to use Hannah Arendt's phrase, about the banality of evil, that evil is not perpetrated by psychopaths necessarily, but by every day people who have come to accept the premises of the state. For me the key moment in the film is when Sam walks past a middle aged secretary who is calmly transcribing a tape and as she lift her headphones you hear the screams that she is transcribing.
posted by drnick at 11:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [31 favorites]


I think that Sam's being complicit in the system is part of the point; everyone is either complicit, or hunted and probably destroyed. The system is not set up to allow any other type of existence. Even if you just want to repair heating systems; you either work within the system or you're an enemy.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't think the point of the film is who is good or evil. It is, to use Hannah Arendt's phrase, about the banality of evil,

Definitely not about who, as individuals, is good or evil. Definitely about an evil system though. Also somewhat about how to do good in the face of the evil system. Is Sam's approach, dropping out, good enough? The movie may actually be saying that Sam's approach is the only sane one available. Every other way to react, as Grimgrin points out, is either corrupt or leads to deletion.
posted by Chuckles at 11:44 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's trying to help Jill, who is essentially a whistleblower,

Jill isn't nearly that heroic. She's decent enough to put some effort into helping resolve Mrs. Buttle's tragic dilemma. But that's about as far as she goes. She seems averse to Sam's impromptu heroics, (wisely, as they seem to result in her presumed demise), and keen to not draw much attention to herself or rock the boat. She doesn't get arrested/killed for helping Buttle, but rather as a side effect of Sam's determination to get involved in her life.

Sam dreams of being a hero. But he doesn't know what to be, other than a cog in the system. And he swings wildly from head over heels infatuation to accusing Jill of being a terrorist to leaving an unequivocal path of destruction in the pursuit of her admiration. All for naught.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Back in June Secret Cinema organized an unbelievable event centered around Brazil (youtube), where the film was brought to life involving hundreds of actors and an abandoned office block.

Cinema-goers were transformed into either 'guys at the bottom', 'employees in the middle' or 'the guys at the top' - and lived these roles whilst walking around the office block partaking, quite by chance, in moments from the film.

Three hours or so of this, and then the film was projected onto the side of the building. Absolutely incredible.

If you have a chance to visit a Secret Cinema sometime - by all means try it out.

Typically the shows are 'secret', in that you don't know what or where the film will be before the night, however sometimes they throw an event like the forth coming Dirty Dancing. Oooh yes.
posted by channey at 1:10 AM on August 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


Good lord, that looks it cost more than the movie.
posted by EmGeeJay at 1:34 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This incredible film has been in my top five since it was released. And I still say that the utter monsters responsible for releasing that heinous "happy ending" version in the US ought to be executed. It's the only crime I can think of for which I'd waive my otherwise inflexible opposition to the death penalty.
posted by Decani at 2:22 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also thought that Ian Richardson's character was pretty villainous
posted by mattoxic at 3:58 AM on August 8, 2013


One of my favorite films, and I agree with Grimgrin's analysis. My one issue with the movie's plot [SPOILERS] is the way Jill seeks Sam out at his apartment so lovingly, after he has been kind of a creepy weirdo to her and has, as far as she knows, ruined her life by madly driving her truck through the city and setting someone on fire. (In reality her life was probably already ruined as soon as she started making inquiries.) Her positive attitude toward him doesn't quite make sense.
posted by gubo at 4:02 AM on August 8, 2013


See also.
posted by limeonaire at 4:49 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been impressed with The Dissolve so far. I'll be very happy if they keep doing features like this one.
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, we can't allow this post unless you've submitted a 27B/6. I'm a bit of a stickler for paper work. Where would we be if we didn't follow the correct procedures?

Thanks so much for this post, I would never have seen it otherwise. It is still my favorite movie, ever since I saw it in the theater as a teenager and walked out feeling like I was seeing the whole world through a fish eye lens. The ring tone on my phone is the one from Brazil.

Also - Decani, they never actually released the "happy ending" version, except as a Criterion Collection extra and on some late night TV showings. Gilliam won his war to get the film released in the US, with only ten minutes or so of cuts he approved (which in some cases, actually make the movie better! IMHO) It is pretty fascinating to watch the "happy" version though, just to see the power of editing.
posted by fungible at 5:23 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sounds like Tom Stoppard deserves more credit than he's usually given for Brazil. Also, thank the FSM Gilliam didn't get Cruise. It's funny, Gilliam is always decrying the studios, but it sometimes seems like it's what he really wants.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:47 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why do they call the Dissolve a "diaspora?"
posted by Ironmouth at 5:47 AM on August 8, 2013


Well. . . . We are crack team of decision-makers here, I see.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:19 AM on August 8, 2013


Brazil is one of my favorite films, and I think the articles are lacking a focus on one of the things that (in my opinion) make the film feel more grim than almost any other: the lack of light, and color. Gilliam did this purposefully; even in scenes with color, those colors are lit carefully so that only a few details seem "alive," while the background and secondary images are muted and grim. There is a lot of discussion of the amalgamated 20th century motif, with mixed eras blending; but that's secondary to the deadness of the scenes, in my opinion. Look at the clothes people wear: matte grey. The walls are matte gray concrete. The ever-present ductwork, like the tendrils of some vast and unholy plant, are pulsating gray snakes winding themselves into every crevice and smothering light in every home.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:23 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok, I just submitted an interlibrary request for Brazil, which I don't think I've seen start to finish since shortly after it was first released on VHS. I was probably 1-2 years too young to be watching it then and found it profoundly disturbing, apparently disturbing enough that I've never watched it as an adult.
posted by usonian at 6:34 AM on August 8, 2013


Brazil's look has been so influential and so many movies have stolen from it that it's hard to explain how amazingly different it looked when it came out.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: I would argue that the nightmare of Brazil has indeed very much arrived.

Hah, my friend and I thought so in our first apartment after leaving the college dorms. We named the place "Brazil," after the movie, as we were given the keys to the apartment, but not the keys to the mail. We didn't think about it much, as this was our first time paying for utilities, but we realized we should have paid for something, because one morning, our water was cold and there was a tag on our doorknob about the gas being shut off. It took us a bit of paperwork to get the mailbox key, so we could fill out more paperwork to get our utilities reinstated and put in our names.

Oh, and there was the random duct through the living room. Seriously, we had no idea why it was there, the furnace wasn't even near the duct. Someone had thoughtfully painted the duct, so it wouldn't stand out so much, but it was till a large, ribbed duct coming down from the ceiling, running a few feet, then going back into the ceiling. You couldn't exactly miss it.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:53 AM on August 8, 2013


It took us a bit of paperwork to get the mailbox key, so we could fill out more paperwork to get our utilities reinstated and put in our names.

If you had really been living in a bureaucratic nightmare, they would have insisted they mailed the paperwork to you, refused to provide it in any other way, then offered to mail you another copy.

Then when the mailman came and you tried to intercept it (you thought of that already, didn't you), he would have told you he can only hand the mail directly to you if you filled out a mailbox release, which the main office could mail to you.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:07 AM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Brazil is the best movie I've ever seen. The first time I saw it I liked it but the second time just blew me away and I've never really recovered.

I watched it over and over for a few years and one night whilst under the influence I wrote a multi-page analysis of everything which resonated with me about this movie. Sadly, it was mostly unintelligible the next day so it had to be thrown out because it was too embarrassing to live but to this day whenever I see any form of ducting or a person who is capable of typing at 100wpm struggling with a hand-written note I think of this movie. I only watch it every couple of years now but I love it just as much every single time.

Terry Gilliam is an erratic, flawed, magnificent genius.
posted by h00py at 7:17 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


1. Why do they call the Dissolve a "diaspora?"

Because most of their staff used to be the film crew at the Onion AV Club.

2. More good writing on Brazil.

3. Brazil serves me as a little reassurance that my brain has grown during my lifetime. I tried watching it in high school, expecting something Pythonesque because of Gilliam and Palin, and wound up bailing after half an hour because I just didn't get it, didn't care, and hated the look. Then, fairly recently, I thought, "hey, wait, I should go back and finally watch Brazil," and was totally floored by it, especially the ending.

So I might be middling-useless as a moneymaking adult, but god damn it, at least I get Brazil now.
posted by COBRA! at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


This thread is totally a litmus test. Like Brazil? Cool, we can be friends.
posted by longbaugh at 7:28 AM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the subject of villains and heroes, what I like about the Sam character is that he demonstrates just how hopeless it is to be a "hero" in a huge, oppressive system that already infiltrates most of one's existence. You engage in some derring-do, as an individual living some dream of what derring-do looks like, and you end up setting some other cog in the machine on fire. (The scene that really haunts me is his moment of triumph that turns to horror when he looks back, as you do, to gloat at the 'bad guys' who were chasing them. A gut punch.)

And of course, he brings attention to someone else's more undercover operation, because he thought he could do better.

There's absolutely no resemblance between this and anything I've tried to do in real life. Just, you know, heh, it *seems* plausible. Hypothetically speaking.

I'll be over here, not contemplating the wreckage of my youth.

posted by allthinky at 7:43 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The look is definitely gray and drab, but more impressive to me was the way Gilliam stuffed every frame with detail. He was supposedly influenced by Sergio Aragones' margin drawings in Mad magazine and wanted to create that feeling in film. (Gilliam once worked for Mad as well.)
posted by fungible at 7:44 AM on August 8, 2013


2N2222: Jill isn't nearly that heroic. She's decent enough to put some effort into helping resolve Mrs. Buttle's tragic dilemma. But that's about as far as she goes. She seems averse to Sam's impromptu heroics, (wisely, as they seem to result in her presumed demise), and keen to not draw much attention to herself or rock the boat. She doesn't get arrested/killed for helping Buttle, but rather as a side effect of Sam's determination to get involved in her life.

I totally disagree with this. By the time Sam catches up with Jill she has already brought herself to the attention of the authorities by making inquiries into Buttle's demise. The box which Sam fears is a bomb is actually a bribe for some functionary she is pressing for information. When Sam retrieves her Information Retrieval file she is already a suspected terrorist. She is motivated because her flat was used in the assault and she looks down through the hole in her floor at the devastated Mrs. Buttle, and is horrified. Sam doesn't help her much, but she has set herself against the system for different reasons and the result is inevitable whether he intervenes or not.
posted by localroger at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to work a Homeland Security and can attest that Brazil was a documentary film*.

*The British ending
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:35 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this post. Brazil is definitely one of those movies that grows with you over time. I see more stuff every time I watch it.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dammit, they went metric on us.

Brazil is my favourite movie but I will not say it is the best movie I have ever seen. My opinion is entirely objective.

Jill is the closest thing to a hero but as the script writing (Tom Stoppard!) shows that really, everyone loses and the only way to win is to escape internally. There is no external anymore. The State controls all.
posted by Dagobert at 8:40 AM on August 8, 2013


I totally disagree with this. By the time Sam catches up with Jill she has already brought herself to the attention of the authorities by making inquiries into Buttle's demise. The box which Sam fears is a bomb is actually a bribe for some functionary she is pressing for information. When Sam retrieves her Information Retrieval file she is already a suspected terrorist.

I think by that time, the viewer has a sense that everyone is a suspected terrorist. Sam is naive enough to not believe this, and uses his position to manipulate Jill's dossier.

Clearly somebody has been watching Sam fairly closely. This is hinted several times. His phone call to Central Services is recorded, the heating problem suspiciously resolved and apartment seized. Mr. Kurtzmann curiously makes himself out to be a pathetically helpless bureaucrat to get Sam implicated in the Buttle mixup, then works to get him transferred up and out. There is literally a shadowy figure tailing Sam around. Even Jack Lint at one point hints to Sam that he's being watched and tells him to stay away for fear of the watchful eyes looking too hard in Lint's direction.

Despite Jill's bribes and diving into the bureaucracy on behalf of Mrs. Buttle, when the jackboots finally come, they come for a completely unsuspecting Sam. At which time, Jill is presumably killed for resisting/defending Sam. If the viewer at that point had any doubt about everyone being a suspected terrorist, it is put to rest during Sam's pre-torture debriefing where, if one listens closely, a tally of all his treasonous wrongdoings (taking place during the course of the movie), big and small, are listed.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are movies you like, movies you love, and then there are the movies you wish you'd written or directed because achieving that level of creative accomplishment must be so fucking fulfilling.
posted by tzikeh at 10:19 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


This was the first film to ever *destroy* me emotionally. I can see 12-year-old me now, perched hopefully on the edge of my parents' bed watching the VHS I rented without their knowledge on the Big TV, jaw hanging open in painstaking disbelief for the duration of the cheerfully-soundtracked ending credits, then fade to black and preteen Mooseli's very first Uncontrollable Post-Movie Blubber.

Absolutely the best possible way to introduce an adolescent to the fatal Realness of modern capitalist society.
posted by Mooseli at 10:21 AM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


SPrintF: The genius of Brazil is this: there are no villains. The little guys on the bottom, struggle to just get through the day, through a maze of conflicting rules and regulations. And the big guys at the top? They live in terror of the little guys below them. It's a monstrous structure that breeds the worst in everyone.
Grimgrin:
We sympathize with Sam because we're made to see his inner life and his struggles. I think it's a mistake to think of him as good though.
Indeed, SPrintF has it all wrong:
The genius of Brazil is this: there are no heroes.


Sure, Sam constantly fantasizes of himself as a crusading hero, just as (I have no doubt) every filthy fuck from Pinochet to Santorum has. But he is a filthy fuck, in real life. A willing cog in giant, human-destroying fear machine.

Except - wait - there is one hero. Harry Tuttle, De Niro's crazed, anarchic plumber. And every detail of him is engineered to make him repugnant to the viewer: he's manic, clearly crazy, and dressed in ugly black clothes; he's presented as a caricature of a failed supervillain, yet he is the only one in the movie who gives a damn about anyone besides himself. And in fact regularly puts himself in mortal peril attempting to help others.

The only hero in Brazil is meant to be ridiculed as an outcast, in a society where membership implies at least a complicently evil nature.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


tzikeh: There are movies you like, movies you love, and then there are the movies you wish you'd written or directed because achieving that level of creative accomplishment must be so fucking fulfilling.
You'd think... but everything I hear about how Gilliam ends (or doesn't) his filming experiences leaves me thinking each one tears a bigger hole in his heart.

He's too passionately in love with his works to let them graduate. They have to be torn from his arms. Or die abandoned.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:06 AM on August 8, 2013


> The genius of Brazil is this: there are no heroes.

The Criterion Contraption's characteristically-great review of Brazil that longbaugh linked to includes this spot-on analysis:

You don't get the impression that Kurtzmann or Spoor or Dowser think too much about what they do for a living. Lint's different; he believes he's fighting the good fight. "Our job is to trace the connections and reveal them," he tells Sam. But Jack can't afford to draw any connections between what he does for a living and the kind of person he imagines himself to be, and his cognitive dissonance is the moral abyss at the center of the movie. A system like the Ministry of Information requires thousands of Jack Lints, each more interested in their daughter's latest exploits than the bloody handprints on their shirts.

Also:

It's worth noting at this point that the highest ranking official who's ever mentioned in the movie is the deputy minister. Nobody's behind the controls.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


My favourite quote:
Jack Lint: It's not my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file!
Bureaucratic organisations assigning responsibilities in such a way that (intentionally or not) responsibility is so diluted that nobody is really responsible.

Most of the problems the modern world faces are at least partly rooted in that. Who is responsible for global warming? The financial crisis? NSA snooping? The pothole on your street?

Individuals are just cogs in the machine, and the machine just keeps doing whatever the machine does.

Forget Skynet. We've already invented the machines of our own destruction. We concoct fantasies about AI-based overlords because that would be an improvement.
posted by swr at 2:13 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only hero in Brazil is meant to be ridiculed as an outcast, in a society where membership implies at least a complicently evil nature.

Because he's the HVAC Tech Brazil deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our repairman.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:22 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I went to an interview Gilliam did at a showing of the film at the NFT before it came out properly (oddly, the showing was sold out but the interview not, despite the fact that it was the same cinema on the same afternoon, one after the other). What he said about the film, and the clips that were shown made me totally obsessed to see it, and I went to the premiere a short while later (totally packed Odeon Leicester Square, the biggest cinema in London, I think) and went to see it the following afternoon as well (virtually empty Prince Charles just around the corner).

It was right at that time in my life that a well-aimed movie could completely knock me off my feet for a few weeks, and this one did. But then, it was a time when it seemed that something completely astonishing, like nothing I'd ever seen before, would come out about once a month.

One thing I remember from the interview is that Gilliam said Brazil was his film about the United States (despite the British cast and the French locations), which is interesting.

I also remember him enthusing about the experience of walking into the cooling tower for the first time (they were scouting locations in the drab factory buildings the cooling towers were attached to, and the guide took them in almost for a lark. Of course, that location - Jack Lint's workshop - is one of the most startling images in the film).

I just realised that the cooling tower must be where all the ducting leads to. It's only been twenty-eight years.
posted by Grangousier at 4:03 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Terry Gilliam used home-made ingenuity to create the high-tech lowdown look of his Orwellian nightmare. Here he shows how he shot his hero's torture and escape."
posted by Nossidge at 5:04 PM on August 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thanks Nossidge, you've resolved a childhood mystery for me:

I was always drawing in these little jokes. Like the receptionist playing a video game of these guys as they were blowing up. Looking around, I could see the beginnings of video games. Reality is getting really twisted at this point. Those little screens—they were already there on the desk and I just decided at the last moment, ‘OK, let’s do it.’

That EXPLAINS it! I watched this film as a boy of twelve and this puzzing shot made the entire movie unravel for me - was that nondescript guy controlling all the people there? Was he running all the events from the very beginning? Had I missed something crucial earlier? Nope, it's a computer game. Phew!
posted by forgetful snow at 11:29 PM on August 8, 2013


One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is: Brazil is a Gilliam retelling of 1984.

By complete coincidence I saw them back-to-back, and the realization was jarring when it hit home (Brazil, then 1984).

This makes the idea of afixing a happy ending onto the film... Bowdlerist, if not Orwellian.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:43 AM on August 9, 2013


This makes the idea of afixing a happy ending onto the film... Bowdlerist, if not Orwellian.

The 1956 version of 1984 had two endings, one of which was if not happy, at least heroic.
posted by octothorpe at 10:53 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rewatching Brazil over the weekend stirred up all of the dread and disquiet that I felt when I watched it for the first time at age 11 or 12. At the time, I think it was probably the first film I had ever seen with an unambiguously unhappy ending; I had seen movies with other troubling scenarios in them, but there was always some kind of positive takeaway at the end; bad guys lose, good guys might suffer some casualties, but they win.

Brazil, by contrast, is set in a hostile world and you just sit and watch Sam's life (which already seems kind of miserable to begin with) steadily unravel until he's strapped into a chair and being tortured by his old friend. Even the brief moment of relief when Tuttle shows up to rescue him quickly turns into a nightmare. As a kid, the funnier scenes of the film went over my head because everything in it is so quietly menacing. As an adult, I recognized a lot of blackly funny moments, but contrasted against the terrible bleakness of the setting they somehow just increase the pervasive dread and feeling of screw-tightening throughout the film. If Brazil had been written as a straight dystopian drama/thriller I don't think it would have been half as effective.

I'm not sure what my reaction to the film would be if I'd watched it for the first time as an adult, but man, it did a number on me as a kid.
posted by usonian at 7:23 AM on August 13, 2013


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