Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2006



Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: 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.

This week's question is intentionally a little bit different. Each question is comprise of 2 to 4 images, each from a different film. Look at the images and contemplate why they were given. Your answer should relate the nature of the subjects of the images and films from which they were taken, together - with respect to Brazil as the main focus of your discussion - as well as with respect to the general theme of the creation of dystopia in film environments.

If you have no idea which film the image is from... do an image "save" and it might give you the title.

updated 10-dec-06 1:26 PM

note: your images are BELOW your name


1. Jody Patterson

Religious symbolism in these films – Brazil , True Stories and Clockwork Orange – is used to illustrate the perversions of each particular society. Each scene, portrayed as a religious service, deviates from what would be expected in this context and surprises the viewer, redefining what is to be considered ‘sacred’ in each society.

In Brazil the scene is Mrs. Terrain’s funeral, and the eulogy being pronounced before her portrait suggests a preoccupation with being ‘physically new’ – indeed, it seems Mrs. Terrain has finally died from the series of post-plastic surgery ‘complications’ which kept her crippled and bandaged throughout the film. A bandage end caught in the coffin lid foreshadows the horrific mutilated parts which spill from the coffin at the end of the scene: Mrs. Terrain has sacrificed herself in the pursuit of youthful beauty. Mrs. Lowry’s interventions were obviously more successful: she sits with her back to the casket in order to flirt with a retinue of young men. When she turns toward Sam she is revealed as a beautiful, much-younger woman and asks him to stop calling her Mother. Thus Mrs. Lowry renounces her son in the same scene, for the social position she is so obviously enjoying after her restoration. Sacrifice for superficial gain seems to be the theme of the funeral scene, absurdly set in a place which is intended to represent an ‘ultimate sacrifice’. This parody illustrates the distortion of morals and authentic self which Gilliam presents to be evident in a modern society like Brazil .

The religious ceremony in Clockwork Orange is conventional in formal content – the words of the priest – but the informal context of the service is a place for homosexual prisoners to flirt, under the militant eye of a Hilter lookalike. This is blatantly un-Catholic, unconventional activity in a time and place supposedly dedicated to sancticity. In True Stories the religious service itself becomes distorted, like a music video with flashy imagery and spirited conspiracy-theory evangelism. Like a giant billboard, images flash across a TV screen framed by the giant words “HE IS” – He is what? He is all of this chaos, these confused ideas, these streaming images? Perhaps that is the point, but it seems more likely that all of these films represent precisely what He is not, or at least not supposed to be in a pure sense. Because religious rites are rather standardized and easily recognizeable, even for the unreligious, deformations in these accepted norms are easily noted. Thus the religious imagery in all three films is used as a particularly poignant tool, a converging mirror to concentrate the viewer’s attention on what is strange and dystopic about each society.

2. Joel DiGiacomo

All three images refer to a common theme in dystopic stories: sex, or more generally speaking, love, is a threat to a totalitarian power. It is an instinct, causing humans to behave irrationally, undermining the tight control the institution must impose over the individual in order to sustain itself. In Brazil, sex is seen as an impediment to efficiency. In a clockwork orange, its evil is equated with violence, and Alex conditioned to respond negatively to all forms of sex. In Caligari, the institutionalized protagonist fantasizes about the love he never had, underscoring his insanity. In all cases, especially in Brasil , the dream, or fantasy, is an expression of the character's suppressed urge, and is what motivates his actions, it is his impetus for rebellion against the system that denies him his desires.

In other dystopic stories, where sex is not outlawed, it has been institutionalized and commodified, regimented in such as way as to allow the institutional powers to control their subjects' physical urges. Love and committement are removed from the equation in an act of dehumanization that goes even further than the aforementioned cases.


3. Collin Gardner


4. Suzanne Gibson

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, and these images from the films; Brazil, Clockwork Orange and True Stories are no exception. Customs play a very important role in film, in the case of these given images; customs are used to demonstrate the demoralizing and oppressive nature of modern society. In all three cases the directors are not interested in capturing reality, rather the primary focus is in capturing the moods and the negative effects modernity has on society. Hence in all three films normal situation are captured, yet the customs and context distorts reality and create an astrosphere that is not ‘normal’ causing the viewer to question common perceptions.

In the movie Brazil, the mother is always shown distinctly oppose to the other characters that are very similar to one another. The director uses customs to distinguish the mother character, in this image she is wearing a boot as hot, her clothing is as distinct as it is unique. As interesting as the outfits are they are not the focus of the movie, the costumes are only a tool used to focus the viewer on the character as she is in the being and the empty vessel she becomes. In a state were freedom is prohibited the character loses the person she was and becomes a soulless replication, devoid of thought and feelings.

In the case of Clockwork Orange, the luridly colorful sets and costumes distorts the common place to create the bases for a psychological myth, a myth were one questions the inherent violence in humanity, and the nature of free will. The costumes are part of the fable, and they lead the viewer away from reality and allow them to more freely focus on moral questions that are being asked.

And lastly in the film True Stories, ordinary images are recast to create new shapes, and create a bizarre urban landscape. Every scene seems ordinary, but the ordinary behaves oddly, in this case a fashion show where the models are dressed as building materials. It is a movie that leads one to question Middle America, and suburbia. In all three cases the directors take common scenarios a twist the everyday to create a distortion of reality, hence allowing the view to look beyond the common and question the perceptions that are being questioned by the directors.


5. Vera Guo

The significance to the three frames is that they all tell the setting and time of the movie. It helps set up a scenario for the viewers and depict an idea in relation to the present. In the first scene of Brazil , "Somewhere in the 20th Century" is written with the sky as a backdrop. This lets viewers know that it could be anywhere around present times. As the film progresses it is increasingly apparent that there is not a frame of reference to either time or space. It is impossible to distinguish where things are happening. At the end of the film, it is clear that it did not matter what the location and time was because it was all in the characters mind. This unidentifiable frame of existence relates to Arnold Toynbee’s idea of postmodernism society in which he said postmodernism sees society as losing its creative energy and living in a safe, satisfactory, and timeless present.

In Blade Runner the text " Los Angeles November, 2019" appears at the beginning of the film. It lets us know exactly where the movie is taking place and the year. It is important that we know the plot to the film is taking place in an urban area in the future unlike in Brazil . We can then relate this to our present year Los Angeles and imagine where the city is going to be in another thirteen years although the film was made in 1982. It is interesting to see that twenty-four years ago filmmakers believed that 2019 seemed like a far enough time away from the present.

In True Stories, David Byrne narrates the stories surrounding the lives of characters in a town that is celebrating their sesquicentennial with a "Celebration of Specialness.” This frame is significant as it depicts the main event in which the film revolves around. It is also the theme of the whole film, this festive nature of the town, from the fashion show, talent contest, lip-synching, and parade. It is shows the location as a generic suburban town in the present time of when the movie was filmed.


6. John Lee

Each image depicts a prison cell, a place of captivity, and each leads to or signifies a significant revelation in the plot, from which the dystopic natures of the films emerge.

In the image from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, for example, the distorted walls and its markings reflects the distortion in the plot development, eventually culminating in a complete and ironic role-reversal for Francis. The manipulation of the physical world suggests that the true imprisonment lies elsewhere.

Through captivity, irony also becomes apparent in A Clockwork Orange. A single shot of Alex’s cell undermines the contrition he had expressed earlier, but also demonstrates a sense of freedom (as he is able to personalize his space). This is later contradicted by the sterility of his room at the clinic, and foreshadows his subsequent loss of freedom. Kubrick suggests that even prison is preferable to the solution proposed by the governor, for at least prison preserves a sense of humanity and individuality. The unobjectionable portrayal of the prison cell emphasizes the emancipation of mental capabilities, and implies that dystopia arises from the opposite condition.

Finally, when Sam is captured towards the end of Brazil, the cell itself encapsulates his absolute isolation - from society, from ‘the girl’ - and the tragic futility of his attempt to escape the bureaucratic and autonomous system in which he lives. Brazil accentuates the significance of mental faculties, an underlying notion in the other films; for Sam Lowry, it is a means to escape the rigidity of his social structure and even imprisonment. However, by pursuing and ultimately realizing his dreams, Sam is left with neither dreams nor reality, but a confusing and dystopic combination of the two. Indeed, only when the physical world is removed from Sam - through imprisonment - can he dream again. The end of the film shows a tragic heroism in Sam; despite his captivity, he lives vicariously through his dreams.

Therefore, the scenes of captivity establish a Cartesian idea that thinking defines existence, and a contrast or irony with freedom of the mind that underlines the importance of the imagination.


7. Nu-Ri Lee

The images give were each taken from a scene of dining or drinking from the films: Brazil , Clockwork Orange and True Stories. The food/or drinking scenes in a film seem to be one of the basic elements that give a certain credibility to its mood and its setting. Because eating or drinking is a necessary part of life, in fact, an everyday part of life, when we see the condition of the characters everyday life, we then relate more to their setting or era.

In Brazil , the scene at the restaurant when the dishes/numbers ordered finally came to the table, all the different cuisine look like balls of goo, yet the characters seem to think that was alright because that is part of their futuristic life. It was quite upsetting to look at since the blobs of goo is suppose to represent the cuisine in the photo propped in the middle of the dish. This shock effect gives reality to Brazil ’s condition of the future where one of its themes is about technology gone wrong.

In Clockwork Orange, the scene of image is set at the Korova milk bar, where Alex’s gang drinks the drugged milk and hangs out. The milk comes out of an erotic female figure sculptural dispenser with sexual connotations. The scenes before the bar where the gangs routine violence portrayed, is more believable now that we see where they hang out. This bar scene is important to the element of crating dystopia in the film because the décor and the setting is very different than the world outside of that bar. The erotic and sexually positioned plastic sculptures used as furniture, and the shiny white décor and neon lights portray a sense of surrealistic, dream-like quality to that scene.

In True Stories, the scene in the image is where David Byrne is dining with the mayor’s family. The seating arrangement and the dinner table etiquette is quite old world. It tells us the conservativeness of that small suburban Texan town. The dinner table and its food becomes representational of how the suburban town works when the dad begin to fickle with and around the food explaining to Byrne, the future of their town. This film is set as a documentary/’mock-umentary’ about the “Celebration of Specialness” in that suburban town and it is clear that from this scene that there is nothing special about this town, but its people. They seem to have been brain-washed to think that where they live and work is the next revolution in the history of living. Unlike the other two films, the dining scene is quite familiar to us, the family gathered together with guest, thus formal utensils and china; thus it gives a sense that this town is probably really like that, it gives a mood that all suburban may be that way too.


8. Michael Lin

The images above show a series of contraptions worn on or relating to the head. These contraptions restrain or activate by way of stimuli or force. The aim of these devices as a restraining or securing device is to produce a wanted result forcibly; as such two parties can be identified in the use of these devices, the subject and the controller, or the powers that be.

The bureaucratic forces in Brazil operate for efficiency. When Sam Lowry’s dream world meets his actual world via the woman of his dreams, his work and life starts to fall apart. In the end, his questioning of the system which he himself is part of like a cog in a machine results in incomplete paperwork and inefficiency for the system. His detainment eventually leads to him being in the subject’s seat. The Information Retrieval system is a euphemistic name for torture. This retrieval process treats the civilians as commodities or information storehouses. People are dehumanized in such a way that they become expendable in order to serve the system in an efficient way. Sam is in this very situation where the system which he serves turns on him and even charges him for his own torture. The Retrieval Chair can be seen as a physical manifestation of the system’s power, that otherwise invisible eye that is watching and the invisible hand that has a grasp on all the civilians and workers of this world. The chair is the ultimate process of efficiency, where life is seen to have lesser value than information and the process itself is even given a monetary value.

When Alex is captured in A Clockwork Orange, he is put through a process of brainwashing known as the Ludovico technique. Alex is strapped in and given a drug that induces nauseating pains while forced to watch extreme violent images. This process is meant to psychologically alter his animal impulses that lead to violence. The contraption used forcibly holds Alex’s eyes wide open in a rather graphic portrayal in the film. In this way, the authorities of society have made an assault on Alex that is more deeply affecting than any physical assault he had committed prior. The process and the device used to manifest it forcefully supplant a behaviour that relates to Alex’s brain, his heart, and his instincts and can be seen as a psychological assault. The aftermath of this device turns Alex into a victim of violence not unlike his own victims at the beginning of the film.

In Metropolis 1927, the mad scientist Rotwang devoted himself to creating a robot version of the revolutionary Maria in order to stir up the workers. He creates a device that gives the robot flesh and life. In this case, the device is used to generate the will of a controller into vessel, an artificial being. Again, it is a device that aims to control.

The restraining contraptions in all these films demonstrate how the powers that be attempt to bend its subjects to their will, to generate a desired result forcibly. The agendas behind and devices and the very devices themselves help to generate dystopia and fear in the film with their menacing physical presence.


9. Veronica Lorenzo-Luaces Pico

I believe these three images are connected by the overarching themes of pain and pleasure in the movies.

People in general watch movies because they feel some kind of pleasure in doing so. I was given three images where some or all of the characters were being subjected to different kinds of torture. In today’s society we have developed a tolerance for violence in films, a kind of unresponsiveness to physical pain against others. We feel enjoyment watching horrid images.

The first image I was given is from Brazil. Here the mother is being subjected to some kind of face-lift. Her face is being stretched to the maximum in order to make her younger, and more beautiful. Here the character does not seem to be feeling any kind of pain. She is able to follow up a normal conversation, like nothing is happening. It may be that she is able to control this pain in her mind knowing that it will be rewarded by the immense pleasure of beauty.

The second image comes from the movie Clockwork Orange. Here Alex is severely hitting his best friend, and the scene ends when he throws him in the water. Up to this point Alex had only been mistreating strangers, but no he starts being violent with his best friends too. The pain that comes from his violence gives him pleasure.

The third image shows an eye being cut by a knife. It is a horrible image that fascinates us at the same time. The pain this person must be going through troubles and pleasures us. This inverse relationship between opposites can be seen as the idea of the sublime.

The idea of the sublime is presented as the opposite of the beautiful. The sublime is an emotion founded on some variation of the feeling of pain or terror, which, when modified by expectation and surprise, causes in the mind what is described as astonishment, a feeling that operates both at the level of the mind and the body. It can be exemplified “as producing an unnatural tension and certain violent emotions of the nerves” (Burke).


10. Arjun Mani

These three pictures capture the bittersweet resolutions of the films with iconographic conditions that would normally cater to a happy ending, but are used here to emphasize the persistence of dystopia through contrast. It is often difficult to see a movie end in gloom, we naturally tend to expect a good turnout no matter the subject matter. Dystopic themes, however, need to carry through to the credits in order for them to leave with audience, and in order for the intentions of the film to be fully realized.

In Brazil, Sam Lowry is seemingly freed from the nightmare of his crumbling reality, but forever imprisoned in an acid-trip of a daydream. Sam’s degenerating dream at first stirs up hope then slyly steals it away as the viewer discovers that the absurdities of the situation are increasingly abnormal even for Terry Gilliam’s direction. In the final disillusionment, we see an unresponsive Sam lost in a fantasy to the tune of Brazil, while the dystopic world around him has not changed. He has “escaped” this world, but only on its terms. Dystopia remains a permanent reality and leaves with the audience as a bitter taste in their mouths.

True Stories ends on the same note it started on. The happy ending for Louis is more comedic than fairy-tailish, and the general absurdity of Virgil and its citizens is topped off with a “bed-in” wedding. Like Brazil, the resolution of the film does not bring any hope for improvement of society, and the viewer is left with unresolved sentiments as to what has been achieved. Essentially, nothing has been achieved, and that captures the dystopic themes of stagnation and idleness within society.

Blade Runner ’s “Hollywood ending”, while not Ridley Scott’s intention, just barely manages to maintain the dystopic qualities of the film. While Deckard and Rachael drive into the scenic landscape, (stock footage from Kubrick’s The Shining), we are reminded by the voiceover of the fleetingness of this happiness, and the general uncertainties of life. The true dystopic themes, however, are abruptly silenced, and only partially resurface as memories due to the stark contrast. Interestingly enough, Brazil’s ending also suffered a studio imposed edit for syndicated TV release known as the “Love conquers all/TV edit”.


11. Darcy McNinch

In the film Brazil technology seems to be taking over the world, it is very claustrophobic and frightening. This is also a common element in the films Blade Runner and Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, the service infrastructure appears to be taking over what it is actually serving. In Brazil there are pipes and ducts and wires running everywhere, through public spaces, up through the floors, outside, inside… everywhere. The characters in the film, especially Sam Lowry seems to be constantly plagued by them and their maintenance. In both Brazil and Blade Runner it appears there is no natural landscape left, both are filled with television screens watching the inhabitants every move. The cities are over-crowded, dark and polluted. In Metropolis the upper levels of the city are bright and cheerful, yet still no image of a natural landscape, and the lower levels are just like those in the other two films: over-crowded and full of rubbish; The cities in these films are truly dystopic nightmarish places.

One gets the sense that there is very little freedom in these places, that the people are constantly under surveillance and one wrong move will land them in trouble. Not only is this felt, but also fully demonstrated in all three, the main characters try to help someone in trouble and become ostracized because of it.

While watching these films, most noticeably a sense confinement and desperation is created. The audience is firmly connected to Sam and his every blunder; everything within the film feels contrived and controlling and to this sense of claustrophobia, there exists monotony in most of the settings, and a lack of emotion or immediacy in any of the characters apart from the hero and heroine.

The technology in these films is overpowering and domineering, it creates a sense of control over the characters within the film as well as the audience witnessing it; the services are unmanageably out of control and a sense of being watched is prevalent. These films point out societies love-hate relationship with modern devices how we think we control them and they serve us but eventually we find ourselves at their mercy.


12. Ben Nielson

The common theme between the photos is more than violence; violence in and of itself does not promote a sense of dystopia. These four films take their dystopic effect from the use of violence to disrupt the viewer’s sense of security – to introduce violence into situations the viewer assumes are secure.

The first two images violate the sense that the home is a fortress. Alex and his friends invaded the security of the writer’s home using a ploy that any sympathetic person could have been taken in by – the viewer is left with the unsettling impression that being a decent human being leaves the home completely open to random and reasonless violence. Similarly, Roy gains entry into Dr.Tyrell’s home using one of Tyrell’s friends as a pre-text. Where the violence in clockwork orange is frightening through its randomness – blade runner frightens through its persistence. Tyrell is behind a technologically bolstered set of security measures, but by allowing access to a friend he also let the persistent seekers of revenge waltz in.

The next image produces its unsettling effect through the instability of power relationships. The film Black Cat takes place in Dr. V. Werdegast’s home, and he is in control through the film, toying with the protagonists. When tables are turned and the Doctor is trussed up for skinning – we are shown that no matter our confidence in our control of the situation, chance and the machinations of others can lead to sudden loss of power, leaving us at the mercy of the often violent world.

The final image shows Sam Lowry’s horrified reaction to a ‘terrorist’ bombing in the film Brazil . The dystopic quality comes from, once again, the intrusion of violence into a secure situation. The victims of the bombing weren’t specifically evil, hadn’t done anything specific to attract the violence they experienced, they simply happened to be in the wrong public place at the wrong time.

These images show how the four films in question use violence to violate our sense of security, to show us that a reasonable concern for security and being what is considered a ‘good person’ is no defense from a world filled with randomly directed, persistent and manipulative violence.


13. Uros Novakovic

The three images from the films Brazil, Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner, present the shots in which eyes, trough which we recognize people’s identity, are indicative of the characters’ humanness or lack of it. Eyes are intrinsically tied to a recognition of one’s an identity and an insight into one’s true nature.

First image (Brazil): This image represents ‘the gaze of authority’. Crucially, the eyeless faces in the background define the character of the image. They are the power vested in the authority of the gaze. The eyes, in this context, reveal nothing of the actual personality. It is unclear whether the person is sympathetic or not. They merely reflect the authority.

Second image (Clockwork Orange): The second image represents the state of psychological terror, reminiscent of Munch’s Scream. This is equally a moment of a loss of humanity. It is a critical moment in the film, when the relatively normal socio-political condition disintegrates. The ‘author of subversive literature’, who up to this point, was a definite force of ‘good’, is turned into an de-humanized vengeful creature.

Third Image (Blade Runner): The third image is the only moment in the film, when the audience is confronted with the process of replikant production. The artificiality and non-humanness, which could have been questioned by the viewer, is emphasized and directly showcased, in presenting the process of eye production.


14. Michael Taylor

When looking at the recurring theme of authoritarian governance over the films Brazil, Clockwork Orange, and Bladerunner, we see how there is potential for the ability of mankind to oppress and through corruption, power, or ignorance and maintain the ability to enact restrictive policies on the emotional and physical natures of his fellow man. In Brazil we see the monotonous repetitive soldier who’s only will in the movie is to shoot the infiltrator without question. The lack of interrogation and idea of shoot first ask questions later is purely a tactic used by the ignorant in society when the ability to oppress supersedes the moral and ethical qualities of the individual. As the soldiers of Brazil act not even as police officers but more like gun carrying henchmen, and carry out there tasks unabated by the goings on of the interior of the building, simply obeying the orders carried out by the chief without interruption. Within A clockwork orange there becomes a reversal of fortune in that when Alex and his past friends had originally been the ethically incorrect individuals who act out against the power which controls society through the general policing of they city, with Alex as there leader, it is now those same counterparts who have basically carried over to the other side in favor of perhaps that same power executed through corruption without the fear of retribution or consequence, as with the overarching ideal of police, whose general ideals are to include protection of the people, Dim has used this same power to ensure that Alex feels their vengeance for that same power he used over them previous.

In bladerunner, we see the captain, a more generally jaded individual, who has become lost in a world of where the idea of the individual within society has now been pushed so that it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate between human and machine. His ultimate goal within the movie seems to act within the same oppressive bounds as the others, and without questioning the motives of the powers that be, he simply gives orders without true reason to search out and execute any rebellious individuals in effect himself becoming the ignorant power machine of the dystopic age held within bladerunner.


15. Holly Young

Extrapolated Question: Describe the role that camera angles play in contributing to the atmosphere of a film, with emphasis on the ability of the low-angled shot to create an environment of fear and dystopia.

Camera angles are critical elements involved in the conception and execution of a film project. The relationship between the camera and the subject being filmed provides emotional information to the viewers, influencing and guiding their judgment of the object or character being shot. The more severe the angle, the more symbolically-loaded the shot. When used effectively, camera angles can evoke feelings of fear, sympathy or suspense, and incite any number of emotions. They draw an audience in to the action of a movie, personalizing the experience, keeping their attention and making them feel involved as the plot develops. In fact, film angles are so integral to filmmaking that Stanley Kubrick personally shoots all of the detailed camera work for his films himself.

These two screen shots from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and Terry Gilliam’s ‘ Brazil ’ are examples of a specific type of camera angle. Both shots are taken close to the floor of their respective sets, and are angled sharply up toward subjects about to deliver a killing blow (one to a fly using a stack of papers, and the other to a woman using a giant penis sculpture). The result is disorienting and threatening: typical attributes of a low-angled shot.

The most common camera angle is positioned at eye level. It serves as a fairly neutral shot, situated as if it were a person actually observing the scene. The camera is typically placed about five to six feet above floor and on a level of focus with the heads of the actors. Both ‘Brazil’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ make use of this shot for much of their stories; however, it is the contrast of this typical shot against the more extreme angles that give the latter their unusual quality, making them feel out of place in comparison and charging them with emotion. Low angled shots, like those depicted above, increase height, elongating the surroundings, and also making any motion in the shot seem faster. The viewer feels small and powerless within the action of the scene. Low angles inspire confusion in the audience, as the background is often just a view of the sky or ceiling, and such lack of detail about setting disorients onlookers. Also, the added height to the camera’s subject can inspire fear in vieiwers, who are psychologically dominated by the individual (or object) on the screen. In contrast, the high angled shot can be used to the opposite effect: making the subject of the shot feel smaller and less daunting. However, this type of shot can be manipulated for use in dystopic filmmaking as it can also be used to show a character that the audience identifies with getting ‘swallowed’ by a frightening setting and to project a sense of the helplessness of that character in his current situation.


16. Michael Morgan

(clockwork orange)

Discuss the significance of the use of numbers and letters as identification of characters in Brazil, A Clockwork Orange, and Metropolis (Anime 2001).

An analysis of the use of index numbers in the films “Brazil”, “A Clockwork Orange”, and “Metropolis (Anime 2001)”, reveal how index numbers are used in each case to help portray a character’s role in their respective societies in each of the films.

In Brazil, Lowry is given the number DZ-015 when he becomes part of the Information Retrieval Agency. When Lowry is given this label it is symbolic of not only his role within the company, but within society as well. In the eyes of society, he is no longer Lowry, he is DZ-015, an insignificant office worker crammed into a windowless half-office, who is part of a vast network of insignificant office workers also crammed into half-offices. Another thing to consider is that every time DZ-015 attempts to find love and happiness he is thwarted by social institutions, such as the Information Retrieval Agency. In summary, turning Lowry into DZ-015 entails a removal of personal choice and the subsequent suppression of his individuality, leaving just a mere quantitatively defined entity serving the needs of a society that took personal choice away from him.

A similar situation arises in “A Clockwork Orange”, when the main character Alex enters into the prison system. After Alex is found guilty of murder and passes through the prison gates he stops being Alex the individual and instead becomes prisoner 655 321. Once Alex is prisoner 655321 his personal freedom is removed and in turn his individuality is suppressed as well. In Alex’s case, society is represented by the prison system and government that treats him like a lab rat by testing all sort of nonsensical methods of rehabilitation on him.

Finally, the robot, Pero, in “Metropolis 2001”, experiences a similar situation that occurs to Lowry and Alex in “Brazil” and “A Clockwork Orange”. When Pero is assigned to help Shunsaku Ban he is treated as a mere robot slave, like all robots in Metropolis. As a slave, he has no personal choice which is reflected in both his original name, D-RP-DM—C, and Pero, the name Ban gives him that was originally the name of a dog he once owned.

Taken together, the use of letters and numbers as personal identification in each of these films helps to portray characters that are in a certain sense enslaved by the societies they live in and further indicate how their individuality is suppressed when their personal choice is taken away.


17. Ashley Snell

Brazil – Restaurant Scene | Blade Runner – Models | True Stories – the Suburbs

All three set up a dystopic environment for the films in different ways. In Brazil, it is a life-size built scene to look ‘modern’. In Blade Runner, they use models to represent the ‘modern’ city, which has a similar look to the interiors of Brazil. In True Stories, it is a different look at to what ‘modern’ is, real living today. The empty lot leaves it up to the imagination but really it is a trick and you will picture a house like all the others. Looking at each image, you would not be able to tell its location. If Blade Runner and True Stories did not tell you the locations, they could be set anywhere. There is a sense of timelessness. Brazil actually being timeless but the other two could easily be the same even with the two different types of ‘modern’.

The images of these environments also reflect what is happening in the film. The busy, bustling set in Brazil representing the chaos of the people and all the action-taking place. Blade Runner also has chaos and business in the lower level of the city, which these models were constructed for. Chaos is one of the ingredients for a dystopic environment. In True Stories, this bland normal image is just like the people in the story, ordinary. This may not be bustling but there is something unnerving about the ‘perfect’ neighbourhood.

The ductwork in Brazil symbolizes the umbilical relationship of the people to the centralized government and the loss of aesthetics in our cities ( Not only is it a connection of the people to the government, it represents the social classes. As discussed in the other films where the classes are vertically separated, this one is represented differently. The more ductwork visible in the home or office proved to be of a lower class. The buildings in Blade Runner and the suburbs in True Stories are also in the lower to middle class ranges.

The idea of the loss of aesthetics in our cities can be seen through all the images. Ductwork is not that pleasing to the eye and therefore is normally covered up. In Blade Runner, these buildings are more in the slums. In True Stories, this typical suburb found everywhere, is not aesthetically nice to most architects but is loved by most middle class person. Bringing me to the next point, the ductwork also can represent a loss of values. It proves the people to have more of a materialistic value over spiritual. Living in the suburbs, alludes to a certain material value of the owner. To own a house with a big garden and little white fence is a dream. It shows their worth to their friends and neighbours.

Terry Gilliam's Brazil


18. Ivy Ho

The most apparent similarities of the three images are the use of backlighting and shadows. This technique has been very prominent in the film selection of this class. The elongated and distorted shapes of shadows create mystery. In the absence of visual details, the audience is left with abstract shapes of shadows and their movements in the dim space. Thus, the imagination kicks in, evoking anticipation and perhaps fears.

The other element that these three images demonstrate is the visual composition of the frame and the scene using the technique of backlighting and shadows. In both the Black Cat and Clockwork Orange, one can note the scale of the characters’ shadows compared to the space of the frame. The characters overwhelm the frame with their huge shadows, making them seem more menacing and powerful. However, Sam Lowry in Brazil seems small and insignificant when he first steps into the Lobby of the Department of Information. The building is huge, voluminous and vast. Sam is completely overpowered by his environment. Thus, beyond the immediate effect that tonality has on the audience, the scale of shadows also convey the tension between the characters and the space around them. Furthermore, this visual relationship between characters and their environments reveals the state of mind of the characters themselves. The way that the characters feel directly affects the way in which they occupy their environment. In Brazil , Sam is a small, law-abiding man who is more fearful than he is ambitious. Thus, as he enters into this new work environment where he has been promoted, he is timid. While in Clockwork Orange, Alex and his droogs are bold. They are there to take over the bridge. The image from the Black Cat is slightly different. It is an image that reveals the fear of the doctor who is not in the scene. The sly entrance of the black cat reveals the doctor’s fear of it. The degree of elongation in the shadow of the cat’s legs may be in direct proportion to the fear of the doctor. Thus, what is on screen reveals the state of mind of a character that is off screen.


19. Jonah Humphrey

The images shown from the films Brazil , A Clockwork Orange , and True Stories , respectively, depict the urban (or suburban) environments of the grim, hard-surfaced fictional cities in which these films take place. The first image is a shot from above Sam’s apartment, in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil . Strangely, it appears that this is Sam’s balcony, and yet, it seems that it is the only entrance into the building, suggesting the unforgiving urban surroundings found in this mythical city extend vertically through all floors of these brutalist neo-classical towers. Though this particular shot utilizes a stage set, parts of Sam’s apartment building were shot on location in France , at the Marne La Vallee—a huge apartment complex designed by Ricardo Bofil, ironically, now the site of EuroDisney. Continuing the theme of brutalist, concrete architecture, we see the second image of the Ludovico Medical Centre in A Clockwork Orange , which in reality is Brunel College , Middlesex, Uxbridge—a site that demonstrates the hard-edged, prison-like nature of the not-so-distant future Kubrick brings to the viewer. Lastly, we see a typical North American suburban strip-mall, portrayed jokingly as something “special” in David Byrne’s True Stories , featuring the ironically named store “The Home Front”, suggesting a Home Depot type of large home renovations/finishing store, while presenting it’s own incredibly bland façade.

The most striking feature of these three urban environments that are depicted in these films, is the lack of any soft edges, and more specifically, a lack of life—plant, animal, or even human. Perhaps these represent a parody of the modernist architectural visions, so often depicted in pristine renderings. We find, here, these idyllic realms realized, but they have become worlds that in fact imprison us spatially, offering laughable examples of ornamentation, and thus represent the commoditized and codified, aesthetically benign realities we can find in our own world. These extreme versions of the banal urban environments of today’s cities, give us a glimpse of their becoming the empty, dystopic public environments, that, in fact, no one wishes to inhabit.

Ultimately, these films criticize the potentially domineering and unforgiving nature much of architecture may take on, when built under a regime of control, or in a city or district that isolates itself from its context, and indeed the rest of the world. The first and last images more specifically relate to the inherent problems with architecturally stripped down, repeatable or even identical developments, that make no reference to their location, their surrounding context, or even their inhabitants, other than perhaps the overly generalized political organization that imposes a wash of absurd consistency on its population, which is the creator of the ideology of consistency that gives form to the architecture of these films. Differing only in its more specialized, and arguably, more interesting architecture, the Ludovico Medical Centre’s building is the paramount example of government maintaining control in society. This structure demonstrates the situation, wherein, the imprisoning nature of the governments of the other two films (as with the methods of a sweeping bureaucracy, or an overriding consistency), is exchanged for the targeting of individuals who attempt to step outside the norms society upholds, such that they are ultimately controlled even more severely than any other members of society.

With the Ludovico technique itself, the means of control in A Clockwork Orange we find a striking similarity to the final torturous scenes of Sam Lowry at the end of Brazil . In the latter case, however, Sam finds his only means of alleged escape from the dreary, controlled environment of the ‘real world’ in the film, is to drift into his own dream world, where he can still imagine realms of lush green landscapes and gently moving clouds—elements that seem totally absent in the extreme urban environment of Brazil . This escapist end to the film may show the ultimate problem of these dystopic future worlds, for, as when these severe urban environments become so unlivable as to force one to live completely inwardly, one becomes an even greater prisoner, held captive by their own unrealizable dreams.

20. Aleks Kolbas

Use of a car to convey fear and dystopia in ‘Clockwork Orange ’, ‘ Brazil ’ and ‘True Stories’

In old western movies, it was always known which cowboy was the ‘powerhouse’ of them all, of course, the one with the best looking horse. As the technology transformed a horse to horsepower, the ideology of having a good ride in movies did not lose its cache. There is something peculiar in analyzing the main characters’ means of transportation; it is bound to be of utmost importance exuding wealth and coolness. Directly tied to a main character, a hot car was a must. It inevitably showed a true colour of a character, rather portrayed a villain or a hero.

So it too, in these three feature movies, a car conveys the nature of their main characters as well as valiantly emphasizing the thematic ideas behind them. We see Alex and his gang in ‘Clockwork Orange’ racing down the city streets with great speed in a hot convertible, screaming, yelling and causing riot. The shot was taken from a moving car in front of them making them appear as though they are chasing someone, which alluded to their cruel intentions and bad behaviour. A car makes a clear statement of their nature in the movie. In ‘True Stories’, the red Cadillac convertible played an important part is demonstrating wealth. Cadillac was at a time an icon of American high standard transportation system, and it was seen as a precedent for treatment of respect. This ideology behind a car really didn’t change much and it still remains a fact today. Have you seen the new Cadillac CTS? Nonetheless, ‘True Stories’ came at the time when American Dream came to its peak, in desperation to be achieved by the general public, so to speak. It was a fad to own a car, own a bungalow or a nice suburban home, and travel. The highway, long roads, big shopping malls, is the aid for serving such desires of a man. It made one happy having everything within his reach. This was successfully illustrated in this movie, so a Cadillac is just that, a tool that made one noticed. A car in ‘ Brazil ’ showed a different kind of fad. This futuristic, convenient, one man ship was owned only by elite, it was for ones that worked for government, department of identity retrieval, to be more precise. It almost reminded me of smart car of today, a fad that brings one to fear seeing it next to 20 ton eighteen-wheeler on an eight lane highway. A car does say something about its owner, and not just in movies but in real life. It shows our omnipotence, our desire to be noticed and respected; it’s our way of expressing. Movies do that well, but unfortunately some of its coolness brings violence to our streets.

21. Tavis McAuley

Each of the three images demonstrates a version of how the guardian figure in society has evolved to become the dominant force of progress and innovation. This is compared with the current model where commerce operates to encourage innovation within the constraints established by the guardian operating in the best interest of society. In the film Brazil, It would appear that private enterprise has been replaced with state run departments that manage all aspects of day-to-day life, including maintenance of mechanical systems, services related to funerals, and ironically plastic surgery.

Jane Jacobs in her book Systems of Survival explains the roll of both the Guardian and commerce (commercial).

In her book Systems of Survival, Jane Jacobs proposes that society can be viewed as encompassing two moral syndromes, the “guardian” and the “commercial.” Jacobs argues that the guardian system, or governance, arose in territorial and hunting societies, cultures that guarded their boundaries, were suspicious of outsiders, and were deeply protective of their possessions. The guardian system is conservative and hierarchical, adheres to tradition, values loyalty, and shuns trading and inventiveness. The commercial system, on the other hand, is based on trading, and functions well when it is open, trusting of outsiders, innovative, positive and forward thinking. It values collaboration, contracts, initiative, and optimism.

Jacobs goes on to say that any combination of these two moral positions can lead to a “Disastrous Hybrid” where the two systems overlap and have the potential to base decisions on the opposite bias.

The other common thread highlighted in each of the images is the place of media in society. The western ideal of having an independent media that maintains transparency of the state has now become the mouthpiece of the government in each of the cited films. In the Caligari image, Dr. Caligari is captured while standing in front of projected words on the landscape. In Clockwork Orange, the image of the newspaper headline identifies the government as contributing to the poor science around the “Crime Cure” procedure. This is especially true in the case of Brazil, where the media now operates to continue the self-fulfilling cycle that ensures that each department has a steady flow of paperwork and bureaucracy to digest. The slogans in the two posters in the background of the Brazil image capture this ideal, “Don’t suspect a friend, report him” and Trust in haste, regret at leisure”

All of these themes contribute to the larger dystopic forecast of the future of life on the planet.

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