443/646: Architecture and Film
last updated Friday, December 26, 2008 12:48 PM
Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: firstname.lastname@example.org I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. There are 28 students and we can take no more than 1 hour and 15 minutes for our discussions.
The film "Brazil" looks at the dystopic view of our urban future in film. There are the same recognizable elements of madness in the film that we have seen on other films from the term (subject, director, filming). Although the movie is supposedly set "anytime", and the sets are in many ways referential to past settings/architecture/style, the social order proposed is more reminscent of proposals that have been "future referenced".
This time, for something completely different, I am asking YOU to make up a question and ANSWER it. Your answer should be in the range of 400 to 500 words. Feel free to refer to the format and types of topics that I have given out for any of the previous films from the term. The question may be text based or image based. If image based, please supply a jpeg of the image if possible. I have uploaded several hundred here XD
There is lots of information on this movie on the internet. Please have a look a the links provided in the course outline.
If you are familiar with other of Terry Gilliam's work (12 Monkeys, Monty Python, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, etc.) you may wish to reference his use of architecture, special effects, from those films. Brazil is considered to be part of a Gilliam trilogy that also includes "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and "Time Bandits". If you have seen these films, please feel free to comment on this progression.
Also, consider the cultural timeframe for the movie. What else was produced in and around this time? This film won an Academy Award even before its release to the theatres, which again, was not well received (by the public - if their opinion really matters??).
If you want to tie your question to ANY other film we have seen this term, please feel free to do so!
|1. Andrew Azzopardi|
2. Tyler Bowa
By assuming that the entire film is a dream, can we better understand the overall madness within the film? Would this approach apply to Clockwork Orange and A Zed and Two Noughts? What about all films?
Yes, this idea of the entire film being a dream is very helpful. Looking at the running theme of loyalty and friendship, in the film Sam suffers a constant struggle trying to find true loyalty amongst his friends. In dreams, if there is some situation or incident that has happened recently then the appearance of a best friend maybe very much linked to that. But if that is not the case then their appearance may be symbolic, in the case of Sam. In such cases the best friend can often symbolize your ideal situation or preferred outcome. The dream will be about what is best for you. If the best friend is someone that you do not recognize it may suggest that this ideal situation is not been reached or is not achievable. Therefore, in Sam’s case he is simply dreaming about what he really wants, or to be more precise what he doesn’t have right now. If he were to wake up from the entire dream he would just be another number in a mass society.
3. Martin Chow
How does the set of the film "Brazil" contribute to the theme of madness?
The setting is obviously in an industry-ravaged landscape, where the sky has the colour of exhaust fumes, and the megalopolis is surrounded by wasteland for miles around. Yet the highways leading from the city are lined with cheerful (yet poorly maintained) billboards that block out the dismal view and instill happy thoughts into drivers. Such strong visuals establish an unhappy future where society disengages itself from its bleak circumstances by continuous attempts to deceive itself.
Hence, the feeling of madness in the film is manifest in a universal pursuit of happiness through an escape from reality. Although the audience is treated to the fantasies of the protagonist, the fact is that all the characters are living in their respective illusions of the world. It is emphasized many times by the stark differences between real life and what is advertised, often by showing the extremely sloppy attempts by businesses to falsely represent a product or idea to a public that is desperate for any form of solace and willing to accept obvious lies.
False representations are inherent in each scene. The center piece for Ida Lowry's relatively extravagant apartment is actually a mass of ductwork. Restaurants are well stocked with partitions to protect patrons from having to see nearby victims of terrorist bombings. Attempts to cover up the unsightly presence of cooling towers from the city's factories, by painting them blue with white clouds, indicates an absurd hope that if the passerby tries hard enough that he will not notice them.
In the same way that the film's characters, representatives from every trade, business and position (the heating repairmen, the information retrevial transcriber, the managers and bureaucrats), are constantly preoccupied with insignificant details and formalities in an attempt to distract themselves from ever being able to focus beyond the immediate - from recognizing the great chasm between their life and dreams-, the physical setting of their existence also contributes to the self deception by making it easier to lose focus of reality by simply blurring the eyes.
4. Jamie Ferriera
Paperwork is heavily integrated in Brazil as a form of information control and suppression of the humanistic qualities. Comment on the dehumanizing elements of such a restrictive legal protocol and how manifested forms of madness begin to develop from it.
The political nature of the society in Brazil is largely corrupt due mainly for its desire of total control over its citizens. The most effective way of establishing this context is completed by the implementation of paperwork and protocols to gather information while restricting the actions of its citizens. The film allows one to witness the loss of human contact and the suppression of priority and reasoning by the consuming properties of formalized contracts. As such, many facets of citizen life become suppressed, and morality and wrongful action is averted away from authoritative figures from stringent policy. Paperwork is named using numbers and vague titles in order to limit one’s own understanding, is forced upon by signature to remove legal liability rather than to represent individual will.
|5. Meghan Galachiuk|
6. Sarah Hawley
Examine the different sets of the film and explain how they contribute to the overall eclectic architectural style of Brazil.
The wide variety of sets used throughout the film compacted many different architectural styles into an assorted array of backdrops which supported the overall inconsistency of the film’s plot. The plot itself jumped from a skewed reality like our own into a dream world, this skewed reality was than supported by the diverse architectural settings it was placed in; creating a sense of madness through the film’s architectural sets; many of which were filmed at on site locations in Europe. For instance The Ministry of Information was actually the setting of the Croydon Power Station for interior and some exterior scene. Furthermore the torture chamber shown at the end the film for Sam was shoot in a cooling tower at a South London power station. And Sam’s original job with the records department was actually shot in an abandoned grain mill in London. To contrast with these old industrial architectural sets, the directors also filmed shots in the home of a Victorian artist. In the film this was Dr.Jaffe’s surgery room but in reality it was home to Lord Leighton. The grand apartment of Sam’s mother was in reality a liberal club in London, beside the old Scotland yard. Furthermore the truck chase with Sam and Jill where actually film at the current site of Euro Disney. This eclectic assortment of architecture compacted a century of styles into a single film supporting the idea of madness in its plot.
7. Fernie Lai
How does the theme song, "Aquarela do Brasil," contribute to the theme of madness in the film.
“Aquarela do Brasil” literally means “watercolor of brazil”.
Ary Barroso : Discographies & “Brazil” Lyrics http://daniellathompson.com/ary/lista.html
8. Eric Lajoie
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. In Brazil technology does just the opposite, and the phones are a good representation of that. This helps us to understand the madness of the world of Brazil. Everything in Brazil is much more complicated than is necessary to do the task a person, or thing is supposed to do. Telephones with their random plugins to connect to incoming calls, computers with their monitors of monitors, and ordering food from overly complicated menus for food that is anything but, serve to support the much more frustrating issue of the government organizations. There is so much red tape, and so many complicated procedures that nothing is able to get done. People are caught in an endless cycle of delegation and passing on responsibility in the hope that nothing is their fault or problem to deal with. I feel as though the majority of the citizens have become numb to this fact, save for the few who are using acts of terrorism as a mean, perhaps, to expose the problem.
9. Andrea Lam
What is the significance of colour usage in Brazil?Brazil is presented as a Utopic vision of a perfect world – in theory. The colour in this movie represents the madness that prevails throughout the movie. Two scenes that show this madness manifested in different ways is the scene in which his mother is getting her face stretched in an attempt to reduce her wrinkles, compared to Sam’s erotic dream sequences about Jill. Seeing as the mono-toned, black and white parts of the movie represent the infrastructure and the ‘machine’ behind this flawed society they live in, the colour cuts right through that every time it is depicted. His mother’s session with the plastic surgeon – with bright blues and reds all across her face – represent the capacity that technology has to ameliorate the lives of the people living with it. As she flaunts around with her new face in her red ball gown at the banquet later on, it further pushes the idea that the world she lives in is a ‘step-up’ from the utilitarian, paper-pushing machine that supports it. All of the ductwork and the service-inspired architecture translate directly into the infrastructure of a city. Shooting in fairly dark conditions most of the time, the colourful moments are highlighted time after time as different from the ‘norm’. To touch on the dreams that Sam has about Jill when he flashes back after the first time he meets her and at the end of the movie, these colorful moments represent a world that is not suppressed by the government’s overbearing rule. It is fleeting and fanciful and is an escape from the reality, which is a fallacy in itself. While most of the characters are completely devoid of emotion, the concept that ‘love conquers all’ that is prevalent through the love story between Jill and Sam, the colour used in filming his dream sequences about her simply highlight the acual reality that he has escaped to.
10. Bi-Ying Miao
Explain the significance of Sam Lowry's dream sequences in relation to plot and character development.
Gilliam's Brazil tells a love story in the context a an industrialized and bureaucratic city set in the glory of modernity. The main character, Sam Lowry struggles between his fantasy world with his mechanical reality and slowly becomes alienated from his role as a “cog in the machine”. The dream sequences are manifestations of Sam's desire to escape the dehumanized machine state characterized in Gilliam portrayal of the 20th century. In this dream realm, he is free from gravity and mortality and celebrates this in winged flight. In his search for love through the clouds of his imagination, the industrialized world of the city with its massive, brutalist architecture, and zombie-like citizens become the villains of Sam's desires. The exaggerated perversion of set and characters in the dream world comment on the madness of Gilliam's portrayal of modern society.
As the plot progresses,as the distinction between fantasy and reality become more ambiguous, Sam becomes increasingly detached from the droning routine of his reality. At the beginning of the film, Sam's dream interrupts his ordered life and he is late for work at the Ministry if Information. This breaking down of stability progresses even more rapidly as his love interest in his dream enters Sam's reality. The influence of love and fantasy provokes alienation from the social norms of his environment and rebellion against the government. Madness is progressively enhanced as hallucinations and conscious dreaming becomes more and more frequent. At the end of his quest, Sam fails to conquer the repressive forces of the Ministry and consequently loses the woman he loves. Charged and tortured as an offender to the Ministry of Information for a “waste of time and paper”, Sam gives in to his insanity completely in order to escape the dreadful reality of his fate. At what seems to be a most tragic conclusion, Sam obtains his ideal happy ending in what has become a permanent and sustained dream state.
In this way, his dreams signify a desire to escape from the system of control. Progressing from a desire to question and rebel the system to the final escape from the developed world, Sam's dream sequence propels the character through his journey to escape to the final state of insanity as the fantasy completely removes his consciousness from his reality.
11. Andrea Murphy
“Loose lips are noose lips”
In a world that uses information almost as a currency, the manipulation of that same information can be used to promote this way of life, through fear or hope. It is evident that in Gilliam’s world, the most effective control that the governing bodies have over its citizens is fear.
12. Morgan O'Reilly
second pic did not come through in doc.
Why are the ducts significant? How do they add to the sense of madness in the film?
In Gilliam’s Brazil, haphazard and seemingly random ducts are a significant element in the majority of the settings. The degree to which they intrude on the varying spaces can be understood to represent the controlling forces of the totalitarian government. The Buttle family home, for instance, is dominated by the ducts in the initial scene. While initially it seems that they are able to live happily around these ducts, there lives are destroyed as the government, which is as random and insensitive as the ducts, infiltrates their home and rips the family apart. Similarly in the restaurant scene, the ducts are noticeably intrusive and chaotic. They are analogous to the so called terrorists as they blast their way into the space. Sam’s apartment is clearly indicative of this idea. As Sam goes from being content in his life within the system to realizing that he needs to escape and reject it, his apartment transforms in a similar manner. At first the intrusion of ducts isn’t overly noticeable, however as Sam’s rebellious feelings grow, the air conditioner repair people turn his apartment into an increasingly chaotic mess of ducts and wires. At this point Sam feels completely controlled by the totalitarian government. As you climb the ladder in the Department of Information, the extent to which the ducts control the space decreases. In the Department of Records the ducts are maintained in the ceiling portion of the space, whereas in the Department of Information Retrieval the ducts are not apparent at all. The ducts in the way that they do not respond to the majority of the spaces they inhabit are a reflection of the ruling government. They are not harmoniously incorporated with the architecture of the spaces but rather act as a completely separate entity, which is forced into the spaces in a random and invasive way.
13. Sue Anne Tang
Comment on the choice of fashion and costumes of the characters and its importance.
The fashion reflects the characters in their plot and their position in society. For every role, there is a typical uniform. The business men wear their business suits, service men are dressed in grimy reddish-orange jumpsuits and doctors, scientists and the torturer are outfitted in the white lab coat. The wealthy, such as Sam Lowry’s mother and allowed to dress eccentric, such as her leopard print outfit. Although fashion style varies with the wealthy, the costume design has a sense of rigidity and conforming to ideals. The characters must don there ‘uniforms’ to function in society. Emphasis is placed on fashion as means for ‘success’, such as the scene where Sam is requested to change his suit in his new job.
14. Meredith Vaga
Examine the notions of setting and time in the film “Brazil”.
The film opens with two subtitles, one directly preceding the other. The first reads “8:49 p.m.” while the second says “Somewhere in the 20th Century.” Here Gilliam is locating the film in times and space, but, through the second heading, a setting that is ubiquitous, and therefore the film essentially exists in an everlasting present. That, compacted with the initial subtitle suggests that this perpetual place that is basically void of the notion of time in fact exists in a very precise eternal moment (8:49 p.m.)
The frame in which the story sits can be seen manifested in the physical world of the film. The buildings, set pieces and attire appear to be either directly referential or a mishmash of existing items spanning the last century. Even those items that are to be read as more technologically ‘developed’ are inspired from pieces existing in our past or present world. For example, the computers distinctly resemble typewriters and the telephones look virtually the same, albeit with a lot more ‘stuff.’
Though the setting of the film in time and space seems to indicate an eternal ‘now,’ the paradigms and physical actions of those inhabiting the setting are undeniably geared towards the future and the betterment of society. It should be noted the film as an entity would suggest this is a somewhat circuitous course of action and thus far has only led to jumbled knot of junk – as evidenced by the ductwork, a residue of such ‘modern’ efforts. As well, the characters themselves food into the paradox between the setting of the film and the actions of the film: they work with efficiency in mind so they can watch movies and relax.
Finally, the ending of the film completes the setting of time in the film: Gilliam ends the film with the lyrics “Someday soon…” as we leave Sam Lowry in the Ministry. This further allusion to a better future time, here in reference to Lowry’s imagined world implies that the realm of reality is within reach; however, looking at the already established dynamics between the explicitly stated setting of the film and the modern ideals expressed in the film, the fantasy world will always remain “Someday soon” and will never be integrated into the world of the present, so long as humanity continues along that path.
15. Anna-Joy Veenstra
Comment on the use of masks in the film and their relation to madness.
There are a few types of masks portrayed throughout the movie Brazil, each provides different commentaries on madness. Most notably there is the ‘baby face’ mask worn by Jack Lint during the torture scenes. It marks the typical disguising of the individual during violent acts with an innocent or playful façade. We have seen this type of use of masks in previous films viewed this semester. However, the innocence reflected in this one is particularly disturbing. The slight smile, as if a child would enjoy enacting terror upon another human being, is disgusting.
16. Rui Wang
What is the relationship between the Sam's dream world and reality? How does this introduce a sense of madness into the film?
The film Brazil is set up in a very schizophrenic style. There are many intangled plot strings and a very intricate web of ideas is built with this intanglement. The major contribution to the plot in terms of schizophrenia is the dream sequences.
At the beginning of the movie, the dream sequences are very much largely contained to actual dreams at night or day-dreams. Scenes depict Sam as clearly waking up or snapping out of these imaginary flights of fancy. However, as the movie progresses and Sam becomes entrenched deeper and deeper into the conspiracies and contradictions of the real world, what is dream and what is reality become difficult to distinguish.
It is clear now that Sam has indeed descended into 'madness', for it is a state where what is sane and what is insane is indistinguishable. When real world issues begin manifesting themselves in Sam's dream world, and as the real world becomes more and more surreal, the line between imaginary and real is erased - for both Sam and the viewer.
The film uses the dream scenes to support and parallel the main storyline. While not particularly useful in terms of plot development, it really adds to the overall atmosphere of the movie, and projects Sam as more than a work-body, but a dreamer and a romantic as well. The dream sequences also help reinforce the idea that as the world becomes more and more absurd, our dreams and nightmares can often seem too real. With the advent of virtual reality technology (as seen in movies such as the matrix), what is reality and what is only in one's head becomes entrenched in such philosophical grounds that no one can say for sure.
So even though Sam is thought to have gone insane at the end of the film - staring blankly in his interrogation chair - perhaps he has truly found the only place that sanity exists.
17. Jane Wong
At the climax of Sam’s dream he comes face to face with a giant demon samurai. Comment on the sequence of Sam’s battle with the samurai and its significance to the film.
The sequence of Sam’s dream serves as the critical point in the movie that not only foreshadows his destiny and outcome, but also the futility in his struggle against the technological forces surrounding society.
In Japanese culture, the Samurai represents strict self-discipline, ethical and respectful behaviour. They are typically employed for the military as warriors, demonstrating mass and power, while also symbolizing the hierarchical nature of society. The use of a demon mask over the samurai armour suggests a subordination of the virtues a samurai represents, and it is appropriate that the movie makes use of the two Japanese images to symbolize the overarching negativity of society that Sam lives in.
The battle takes place in a very bland, concrete labyrinth-type space that reflects the similar structure of the places he is most familiar with –his workplace and residential neighbourhood. The samurai, with its unbeatable stealth and overbearing mass, also represents what Sam cannot truly escape: technology. The demon mask allows us to recognize the potential virtues in the industrial process of advancement, but also the hindrances and layers upon layers of bureaucracy that it brings.
The destruction of the samurai should symbolize Sam’s defeat over society’s bounds, but his astonishment to find his own face behind the Samurai mask only serves to illustrate his own failure to recognize that he too participates in the technology-based methods that serve to destroy the happiness in his life. This discovery not only foreshadows the outcome of the movie, but it also demonstrates Sam’s inner beliefs – he cannot truly evade the technological forces around him. It is this revelation that embodies the character and mood of the film, and furthers the dystopic and mad nature of society.
18. Yoshi Hashimoto
Brazil was produced over 13 years ago. It portrays a future that oscillates between campy sendup and eery echos of current realities. How do these scenarios affect ones perception of madness in the film?
Brazil was created during and released immediately following the year 1984, during which time much attention was paid to George Orwell's film of the same name. Consequently, there was inevitable comparison, and undoubtably this was anticipated if not carefully timed.
Much of the depictions of "the future" are caricaturized and deliberately exaggerated, and most of it is not very flattering. The film is a biting commentary of our expectations for convenience and a snapshot of how certain ideals like loyalty and faith can go terribly wrong if it is not tempered with responsibility and individuality. It is particularly disturbing then, to note a distinct parallel with certain aspects of the current political climate.
The film begins on a comedic note. The mood painted by the setup is purely Orwellian- dark, but entertainingly so. We get to snicker at our past follies; this is the way many people actually viewed the future, aided by such iconic figures as Popular Mechanics magazine and The Jetsons. This future, however, focuses on a tragic overemphasis on gadgetry- "convenience at any cost". From automatic window-blind openers, toasters, wardrobes and faucets prone to chronic malfunction, to a preponderance of surveillance cameras, antannaes, joysticks, mysterious ducts and scanners at every turn. It is fun for the viewers, (especially to a roomful of designers!) to laugh at this version of the future and remark at how far off the mark it is. How could society be that blind to the ugliness, why would people tolerate such blatantly poor design and planning? Preposterous indeed. This is a Monty Python-esque extrapolation of 1984.
But then it begins to tread closer to issues that resonate with current realities. The ubiquitous repetition of the theme regarding terrorism, and the fight against it is utterly disturbing. It is one thing to watch this society erode itself to nothing by sacrificing one liberty after another for the sake of "fighting terrorism", but it takes on a whole new level of meaning when one realizes that we are living out parts of this caricature in real life and in real time, right now.
Was this a deliberate move, or just a coincidence? In 1984, the fear of terrorism certainly existed, but not to the extent that exists now. On the international stage, remnants of the cold war were still around, the fall of the Berlin wall had not occurred yet. There is no way Gilliam could have known that we would develop such a preoccupation with terrorism. Or could he?
It is a tragic human trait that some societies repeat the mistakes of societies past, regardless of how monumental they were. No society seems entirely immune to this. It is a reflection of humanity itself. The power of a charismatic leader, the tendency for a society and its government to have a knee jerk reaction to some recent catastrophe and fall into a totalitarian, extremist position. The danger of a slippery slope is not that it is slippery, but that it is a slope. Each incremental step is small enough that it is hard to see the big picture, to identify the point at which to say enough is enough. Studying historical and sociological patterns, it may not be a stretch to predict that some country somewhere is rewriting its foreign policy to suit its needs, or compromising human rights, or abusing positions of power.
Knowing this, Gilliam deftly weaves the likely with the unlikely, creating a jarring portrayal of a parallel existence. This makes for powerful entertainment, a comedic commentary with a message.
19. Elfie Kalfakis
Describe the representation of Sam’s dream world and apartment in relation to the way the rest of society is depicted.
Sam lives in a Machine-Age-Totalitarian society where he is an unambitious and humble government worker. He isn’t particularly passionate about anything that he does, yet he is comfortable within a berserk and corrupt society. At the beginning of the movie Sam lives in a humble apartment that has a variety of inefficient gadgets in it. His apartment is within a solid building block and composed mostly of solid walls with a pair of small windows covered in blinds. All of his ventilation systems are hidden within these walls. He has a small balcony that has no real view of the city and an isolated front door. His apartment is decorated with posters of famous beauties of the mid-nineteen hundreds, which it seems the story takes place. His dreams are of him flying through the clouds and finding his one true love, an imagined dream girl, floating in the air.
The Machine-Age society Sam belongs to is quiet in contrast to the world he has created for himself. The rest of the environments within the movie are quite manic. The Machine World depicted in the movie is one of Vanity, Status, Control and Paranoia. In his mothers apartment there are excessive amounts of mirrors and ornamentation. Sam’s work environment is dark and has various forms of transparent materials and television sets that instigate a feeling of observation, (glass walls of offices, television surveillance systems, magnifying glasses). The posters within the city are of two types, 1) propaganda towards an ‘idealized society’ created by the totalitarian government, and 2) signs relating to paranoia, often found in work environments. All of the ‘guts of the building’ are exposed in all of these environments as well.
As the movie progresses there is a collision of these two worlds. A corrupt government act allows Sam to finally meet his dream girl, Jill, by visiting a slum in the city. She appears differently in the real world then she does in Sam’s dreams. As these events unravel, the world that Sam has created for himself is infiltrated by technology: the ductwork becomes exposed in his apartment, ominous large city blocks burst out of a picturesque meadow in his dreamscape etc. The line between Sam’s ‘happy place’ and the ‘real world’ is fogged; he can no longer ignore the reality that he has been trying to avoid. He is now involved with a potential terrorist and is wanted by the police. His apartment is engulfed with ductwork and cannot be occupied.
It is when Sam takes matters into his own hands, by erasing Jill from all government systems using his skills. Sam goes back to his mother’s apartment to find Jill within a sheer fabric, wearing a wig and appears as she does in Sam’s dreams. His dream girl lies in bed with him in his manic mother’s apartment, an epitome of the superficial society that Sam ignored. Happy as can be, Sam conquered the “Machine World” he feared and made his dreams a reality. That night his dreams a reminiscent of the ones he had been having at the beginning of the movie.
The movie ends with Sam being abducted by the police and eventually pulled into an execution chamber. Just before Sam dies we have another dream sequence that we don’t realize is a dream until after. He dreams of being saved by the terrorist group. Tuttle, the terrorist leader, then disintegrates into a pile of trash that is blowing around the city. Sam then goes to his mother’s friend’s funeral, in which his mom ignores him for male attention and appears as the Jill due to plastic surgical procedures. The police infiltrate and he is rescued by Jill and driven into his picturesque meadow along a road he had ridden when on their first encounter. Then we switch back to the execution chamber where it shows Sam dead.
Sam’s dream was an amalgamation of the reality he lived in and the dream world he had created for himself. The fact that we don’t realize it is a dream sequence until we are told Sam is in fact dead is haunting. The entire movie revolves around Sam’s endless pursuit of happiness and longing to integrate his dreams into his reality. But this opens up a discussion about his desires. In a machine world Sam is either escaping from reality or trying to conform his reality to meet the standards of his dreams. Perhaps this is a commentary on the severity of understanding the world that you are a part of. Sam had no real perception of the world he lived in. His ideals were naïve and ill-informed. And once he understood the world he was part of, then his dreams began to reflect that. The final dream sequence was the most realistic. And if in fact Sam intended on ‘escaping’ from this Machine World, a firm understand of that world was required. Unfortunately in Sam’s case he dies before he can realize that, but perhaps that is the commentary being made by the movie; the only way to survive in a machine age or even a contemporary society is to be knowledgeable.
20. Elaine Lui
The movie ‘Brazil’ written by Gilliam, is commonly regarded as a despotic satire of a broken hieratical society. Lives of people are commonly threatened and seem common place in this society that is filled with machines that fail and incorrectly typed documents determine death without the option of reviewing errors. Gilliam brings to this movie his negative perceptions of the modern world by contrasting his character, Sam’s realities that eventually led to the protagonist’s madness.
Initially, in Sam’s fantasy world of his dreams, he is dressed as a bird with silver and blue armour. He reflects the colour of the sky he represents; free and without the boundaries laid by the society from which he lived. In his subconscious realm, he is the hero of the story and saves the love of his life from monsters dwelling around intrusive towers on grids to only return to his illusion of green pastures and open skies in his death.
Daily life at work for Sam was at the Ministry of Information Retrieval consisted of brown suits with mute ties, where all the other men and employees wear the same shades of brown, and absolute authority was exercised by capital punishment by force without opportunity for appeal. The offices had no windows and streets were tightly framed by tall buildings with little sky. Litter fills the streets and children play at mugging one another. Due to Sam’s desire to save the girl of his dreams through the methods of his dreams, which was action instead of paperwork; capital punishment surrounded by nothing but cold concrete walkways to the center of a confined dark concrete bubble. He hallucinates his rescue and blows up the institutional building with rebels; stumbling into his mother’s funeral, he wakes up in the green pasture of his dreams to spend life with his beloved.
The constructed world of concrete, glass and steel represented the overbearing authority of the social structure, while nature represented freedom and self-exploration. Costume design reflected this same positive light on nature with a negative view on mundane daily work life. Sam’s final hallucinations brought closer to his desire to be freed from the limits of deceiving forms and the fruition of his dreams with his beloved.
21. Reggie Macintosh
Throughout Brazil, major focus was placed on depicting the grotesque/mad nature of the world and the people surrounding Sam, making him appear incredibly ‘normal’ by comparison. In what ways do you feel this was most successfully accomplished? Were A Clockwork Orange and Zed and Two Noughts as successful in creating a sense of madness through grotesque imagery? Why? Why not?
We are introduced to Sam’s mother at the beginning of the film when she is being assessed for a future plastic surgery procedure. Her face being stretched in all directions and pinned into place is our first taste of the disconcerting imagery used in the film to differentiate Sam from the rest of the world. It is as if she is putty being moulded into whatever shape the world of Brazil dictates is appropriate. Her attire and makeup are always overpowering where Sam is constantly clothed in a muted grey suit. To further their contrasts, Sam has completely rejected the help of his influential mother to further his career and to maintain his current, unimportant position. Her flagrant use of wealth to modify her appearance, and power to control Sam are grotesque in comparison to her son’s honest approach to life.
As the film progresses, Sam’s tidy yet mechanized apartment is totally taken over by the ductwork that hides behind the wall. Though completely inanimate, the ductwork takes on the role of a domineering life form, overheating the unit at one point and freezing it the next, in an effort to force Sam into following protocol. Its manifestation is far more organic than it is mechanical, appearing as the entrails spilled from the gut of a large animal instead of as a standard HVAC unit. Caught and bewildered in all of this is Sam, being driven insane by a mechanical system designed to keep him comfortable.
Throughout the film, both in Sam’s dreams and near the end through his torture, the hideous baby faced mask is used as a symbol of the faceless enemy Sam is attempting to overcome. The baby face, normally seen as a sign of innocence, is subverted and acts as an effective tool in evoking an emotional and disturbed response from the audience. Its deformed features and sinister intentions heavily contrast Sam’s character who is simply looking for love and to be left alone.
When comparing Brazil to A Clockwork Orange and Zed and Two Noughts, all were heavy in the use of contrasts to convey a sense of madness throughout the films. A Clockwork Orange used extreme close-ups and wild moving camera work to disturb its audience, not to mention a high amount of violence and sexuality, while Zed and Two Noughts used decay and mutilation. However, I feel that it was Brazil’s use of surreal, grotesque imagery that made it far more successful than the other two films. The dreamlike quality of the scenes and characters in Brazil creates a displacement from reality, but one that plants itself deeply into the subconscious mind where it can spiral out of control.
Frightening in its choice of imagery, Brazil’s use of the mother, the machinery, and the masks to create character contrast is an effective tool to make an average man a hero and a world “anytime in the twentieth century” a nightmare.
22. Judith Martin
In Terry Gilliams Brazil, the urban environment is depicted as an isolated and compacted unit of city. What is the nature/roll of networks in the films portrayal of a dystopic compact society?
The Films use of systems and network infrastructure directly correlates to the depiction of Brazil as a compacted unit of city. These systems include: the ducts, street-like hallways and a zip line. Each system plays a different role in establishing Brazil as a condensed version of the cities we know today. Ductwork weaves through the interior spaces denoting the continuous connections between the buildings within the city. Although the interior spaces generally appear disconnected from one another the ductwork ties each space together. Appearing as snake-like tubes the never-ending ductwork establishes the Brazil’s status as a single system controlled at one central station, “central services.” In today’s spaces we often choose to conceal the ductwork of our buildings in order to maximize the space available for human activities inside. The interior spaces of the central services and information retrieval offices appear as large organized hallways constantly being traversed. These hallways mirror the sidewalks of today’s city where pedestrian interactions but are portrayed as interior spaces disconnected from the general publics pedestrian routes. The internalization of pedestrian routes furthers Brazil’s condition as a condensed city unit, where interactions with outside spaces occur inside. Eliminating stages between inside and outside allows the Brazil to function as a compacted city structure. The sidewalk-like hallways contribute to the dehumanization of brazils interior spaces. The large hallways connect to uncomfortably small office spaces. One could assume that the office spaces were shrunk inorder to increase the hallway size, thus removing space for the individual but increasing space for the flow of information or people. Lastly, the rouge repairman Mr Tuttle travels through he city in a uniquely by creating zip line connections between the tightly connected buildings. The regular heights and spatial arrangement of buildings within the compact city structure allows for Tuttle’s zip-line infrastructure to exist. The three major networking devices that contribute to the cities compressed organization strengthen the dystopic nature of Brazil the city by removing aspect of city valued in contemporary society.
23. Derek McCallum
What is the significance of the “guts” of the architecture in the film?
Within Brazil, nearly all of the elaborate sets are intruded upon by a vast and chaotic system of ducts, piping, and infrastructure. This is most outrageous in the sets that evoke an almost Victorian sense of aristocracy – namely Mrs. Lowry’s apartment and the fancy restaurant. In Sam Lowry’s apartment, the guts are contained within a series of metal panels that take up an entire wall of his home, concealing the chaotic mess that lies beyond. The first time there is a malfunction and he must call the government’s Central Services to fix it illustrates the absurd level of control the government has over its citizens. The entire city is seen as a physical body or organism that the government is the soul of, and therefore it must be involved in any aspect of its alteration or repair. The pulsing nature of the ductwork lends it this animated quality – the literal organs under the skin. By having the rogue heating engineer Tuttle work on these organs, an indecent act has been committed against the government itself. These organs of the government are used as tentacles to reach into every aspect of a citizen’s private life – from their workplaces, recreation and leisure spaces, to the “privacy” of their own homes. The lack of true privacy in the city is evident most in Sam’s apartment. As his world is slowly crashing around him, Sam returns to his home as a personal sanctuary only to find that it is really not his at all, but a part of the government’s overreaching body that has sacrificed itself to teach him a lesson. Since the entire city is its own self, it can contain a wound and not disrupt a wider network, thereby punishing individual citizens at will.
Within the buildings of the actual government, the ducts are used almost like blood vessels, sending vital information back and forth throughout the body in the form of message tubes. When that system is challenged, as Sam attempts to do at the Ministry of Information, the organ reacts and ruptures within the body.
It is perhaps ironic that while the majority of the people in the film appear extremely aloof and unfulfilled, almost soulless, it is the city itself that is the liveliest thing around. Constantly breathing and pulsing, giving life to things around it, the guts of buildings in Brazil illustrate the dependence of society on mechanisms – whether mechanical, or institutional.
|24. Sarah Neault|
25. Lisa Rajkumar-Maharaj
What is the role of architecture in the dream sequences of the movie Brazil?
Brazil, one san say is a commentary on the ultimate dystopian society. Architecture within that dystopian society is very important in the distinctive set of this movie. Overall we can say that strong geometric forms are used to evoke the facelessness and brutality of the society. Also, it is curious that none of the characters in the movie are inherently evil or bad, but are instead part of a maniacal system, where they are simply doing their jobs.
The dream sequences in Brazil therefore express the main characters fantasy world, which in the beginning is the opposite of his real life. These sequences contribute a great deal to character development in the film. They provide an excellent window into the fantasies of Sam Lowry, this outwardly ordinary man, as well as showing insight into Jill Layton (his imagined damsel in distress) and Harry Tuttle (a rogue to the system). The dream sequences are especially important because Lowry is a man who was satisfied to live in the limitless world of his dreams, until parts of that dream world began to appear in his well ordered, but dream-less life.
The dream sequences begin in a more romantic and fantastical style. The wings he wears are ironic because although they are angelic, they are still simply a flying contraption attached to his back. The illusion of being angelic, of Jill Layton needing saving, and of Tuttle being a hero, repeat in his dreams as well as in reality. When the bureaucratic world begins to intrude into his fantastical mind, it takes the shape of brutal fields of limitless cuboidal forms made of dark brick. The lighting is similar to that of the real city, but without the articulation of real buildings.
The final scenes of the movie are extremely important because his dreams suddenly become his real world. The imagery in both worlds gradually become more and more similar, culminating in the torture room, where his dream world and real one truly become one. That room is cylindrical and appears to be like the inside of a grain silo. It is a powerful geometric form, which like the dream city, is unarticulated, representing only a surface material.
The overall effect of Architecture in his dreams is to convey the faceless, fearsome and totalitarian power that governs his society, but more than that, to convey the facelessness of his society, where the characters are faced against each other, purely because of blind commitment to their jobs, rather than totalitarian or brutal ideologies of their own. The buildings shatter the earth and destroy Lowry’s fantastical realm, to create a nightmare that he can escape neither in real life nor in his dreams.
26. Michael Taylor
How does the use of computers contribute to the idea of dystopia in the film?
27. Allison Janes
In one of the opening scenes of Brazil, Sam Lowry’s mother makes her first appearance in an elaborate and over the top restaurant. The restaurant scene was filmed on location at Mentmore Towers. This is the same English manor used for location filming of Wayne Manor in Nolan’s Batman. Discuss the different character of the interior and exterior of this building. Is it appropriate for the spirit of the to the respective films?
Mentmore Towers was built in the 1850s for the Rothschild family. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the architect of Crystal Palace, the manor is modeled on the Elizabethan Wollaton Hall near Nottingham.
28. Allan Wilson
IS SAM LOWRY ACTUALLY A TERRORIST? IF NOT THEN AT WHAT POINT DO HIS ACTIONS BECOME HALLUCINATIONS BROUGHT ON BY THE HAND OF JACK LINT? HOW DOES THE COMPLEXITY AND BUREAUCRACY OF BRAZIL PLAY INTO THIS CRAZY, NUTTY, CONSPIRACY THEORY?
By the definition of the government system that is in place in Brazil then I would have to assume that yes, unfortunately Sam is a terrorist; but having said that, there are two disparate interpretations of this assumption which arise. Firstly, the accusation could be taken for face value; that because he no longer participates in the structures of the rigid society embodied in Brazil, he becomes more estranged from the greater “good”. Gilliam often juxtaposes images of Sam in mental distress will in the vicinity of political slogans. As his behaviour becomes more erratic he is directly in opposition with governmental stability and becomes a risk. This dystopic theme is therefore manifest in his desire for simplicity and clarity; ironically he can’t be trusted.
The second, and in my opinion, more likely scenario is that the audience is actively participating in the torture of an alternate Sam Lowry character, and that the images and spectacle witnessed are just his internal metal constructions which are representations of actual events; the daydreams acting as further distraction mechanisms. Aside from the ending scene of Sam in the cooling tower, this can be validated with several examples. Firstly, in a society so tightly bound in paperwork and formality, Sam is easily able and expected to operate in a higher authoritative position boss Kurtzman. This causes the stability of the occupational food chain to be questioned.
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