443/646: Architecture and Film
The film "Brazil" continues our look at the dystopic view of our urban future in film. 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 300 to 400 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.
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.
Why is it called called ‘Brazil’?
The grey bleak setting for the film “Brazil’ could not be further from the vibrant and sunny landscape of the actual country. Why then did Gillian choose this name for his film. Durinf production the film went through a number of working titles. At one point is was entitled “The Ministry of Torture” then “How I Learnt to Live with the System”. Gilliam even considered naming the 1985 film 1984 ½ in reference to Fellini’s 8 ½ or perhaps even Orwell’s political comedy 1984. Other suggestions for the name included: Dreamscape, Litterbugs, The Works, If Osmosis, Who Are You?, Erotic, Explanada Fortunata Is Not My Real Name, Progress, The Man in the Custom Tailored Suit to name a few. The answer however, is actually quite simple. It is the title of the Jazz piece that you hear at the opening of the film. Terry was inspired to use it after a trip the steel town Port Talbot in Wales. The town was completely black with the dust from the factory in the air. One night, as he stood on the beach he watched the sunset and was struck by the amazing contrast between its vibrancy and the landscape. The music playing on his radio was a latin-jazz song. The sharp visual and emotional contrast it evoked compared to the dusty dull grey of the city formed the backdrop to his movie. And so, Gillian chose this popular Latin song by Arry Barroso from the 1930s The music thus was not actually written for the film. The music was meant to act as an escape from the drudgery of existence.
The lyrics to the song are :
are entertaining June
Significance of the unconscious/dreams
In his 1985
film “Brazil”, Terry Gilliam depicts a dystopic society that
is dehumanized by technology and bureaucracy. Within this society the
citizens are secondary to the machines and act as pawns, easily controlled
by the government. Through the analysis of Sam Lowery’s dreams it
can be concluded that the only time the individual is free from such a
society is in the fanciful world created by the unconscious. For this
reason Sam’s dream sequences have a particular importance in helping
us understand the film.
some may interpret Sam’s insanity as a tragedy, I believe Gilliam
intended for it to be a happy ending in which Sam is able to break free
from the dystopic society.
3. Federica Martella:
the title, taken from the 1930's Xavier Cugat hit "Aquarela do Brasil"
written by Ary Barroso, that reminds us about Brazil, the film has nothing
to do with South America and it is not set there. Set “8:49 p.m.,
somewhere in the 20th century”, as showed at the very beginning,
but in an ironic sense we could say that the film takes place in the old
song because its profuse innocence, faced with the story of the country
of terror told by Gillliam, exemplifies the feel and the intent of the
had this image of a guy sitting there on this dingy beach with a portable
radio, tuning in these strange Latin escapist songs like ‘Brazil.’
The music transported him somehow and made his world less gray.”
When every stranger is suspected of being a terrorist before he is found innocent, the mask is a symbol of that society’s paranoia of identity and its struggle to distance itself from empathy for the individual in favour of the collective. In Lawry’s questioning/execution scene, the executioner wears a grotesque mask of exaggerated joy, in order to protect himself from his task; as his smock becomes covered in blood his face continues to grin in defiance of reality. Emotion becomes irrelevant as he performs the labotomy. Lawry’s rebels by entering into events that are not real; both of them manage to shut down to the atrocity of what is really happening. Identity melts down: they are no longer two friends, or two human beings; one is a criminal by definition of the law and the other is an instrument of justice.
When Lawry’s rescuers enter the scene, they are also wearing masks. The mask manifests fantasy. Here, the fallacy is obvious and literal, because the scene never actually happens. It also expresses the irony of Gilliam’s dystopic vision: when Tuttle wears a black mask in earlier scenes, evoking a classic superhero character, he believes it conceals his true identity from the enemy. In reality, he has already lost control of his identity to the enemy, who have reduced it to a list of statistics on a computer screen that is so easily interchangeable that they confuse him with a different person altogether: Buttle, who in the end is sentenced to suffer Tuttle’s death.
mother also wears a mask that has been constructed out of her own face;
she, too, is paranoid of the truth. Defying time, she no longer feels
any link to reality: she does not mourn at her friend’s funeral
because she is too busy entertaining her admirers, and in the end even
denies her own son. By changing her face, she discards her real identity
and adopts a new one; she becomes disconnected with any emotional relationships
that she ever might have had.
Brazil is a film that aims to capture a particular mood rather than the cold facts of reality. Terry Gilliam’s use of a series of dream sequences throughout the film helps to create a surrealistic atmosphere in a fantasy heavy plot.
In the film, Sam Lowry is a shy worker in the Department of Records at the Ministry of Information. He enjoys the anonymity of his position and never wishes to be noticed. He is a dreamer living in a paperwork-filled nightmare of a metropolis. His only source of contentment lies within his dreams where he is a winged hero gliding through heavens freely. He fights to save his dream girl, the likeness of Jill, from a giant Samurai warrior. He does so with heroic efforts through even apocalyptic conditions.
These dream sequences serve a number of purposes in the film. Most obviously, they are used as a device to foreshadow Sam and Jill’s inevitable meeting and the development of their love relationship. The events in the dream trigger the string of chaos in Sam’s ‘real’ life and in turn revealing his deepest self. Moreover, the short sequences provide a strong contrast, juxtaposing the two conflicting worlds that Sam seems to live in. The irony is, of course, Sam’s will to live springs only from his desire to dream. Though everyone else wants Sam to wake, he goes on dreaming. For it is only in his dreams that he experiences all that is lacking from his real life - freedom, passion and a true sense of self.
In the end,
what appears to be a happy ending of the movie is really just another
one of Sam’s delusions. This final sequence really teases the audience,
presenting them with the idea of hope and only to take it away almost
instantaneously. The film proceeds to end with Sam still strapped to his
chair and dwarfed in the giant torture chamber, as he escapes into insanity.
The audience is left with a powerfully delivered pessimistic message.
The relationship of humanity to its architecture
is personified in Brazil especially the life supporting mechanisms that
make it work. The Buildings in this film take on an active role, starring
in many of the scenes like the one where the HVAC breaks down and Tuttle
appears or the scene where Tuttle gets revenge on the city engineers as
well as the scene when Sam gets his own office in Information Retrieval.
Architecture is portrayed as an enormous biological creature, so complex
as to be beyond the understanding of most people. The ever-present ducting
in every building is round and exposed, setting people inside an enormous
biological creature and its intestinal works. The heating engineers call
the interior works the “guts” and these guts even make the
sounds we associate with bodily functions. Buttles apartment is treated
like a body in which a surgical cut from above is used to extract the
offending Buttle. There is a scene in a restaurant, where a random explosion
occurs. A dam-like structure is placed between the occupants not directly
affected and the carnage on the other side while the clean-up is carried
out as though this was a slip during a surgery so the remaining people
carry on in the unaffected area. People are more like viruses in this
place, secondary to the main architectural character representative of
bureaucracy. The buildings are big, rude, convoluted horrors to anyone
with the fortitude to look inside at what makes them work and the inhabitants
expend a lot of effort at discouraging people from doing so, preferring
to let “minor inconveniences” slip by than be forced into
closer view. This message is repeated literally in the numerous plastic
surgery cases woven through the film. Tuttle is more of an antidote, an
intracellular traveler who swings around in the interstitial spaces of
the main architecture, unlike everyone else. He demonstrates his power
when he re-jigs the body to fight the bureaucratic virus that is preventing
its cure. Sam turns out to be a hopeful escapee who’s solution in
the end is to abandon the body before it dies.
7. Christian Tognela:
BRAZIL – TERRY GILLIAM (1985)
Q: Do you think that Brazil is about the struggle for imagination and free thinking in a society constantly trying to suppress such ideas and that the way of portraying this society full of automation that pervades every aspect of character’s life from the alarm clock to the bath tub that are regularly inefficient and a costant mechanical failure, where cosmetic surgery seems to be the best you can achieve, where big companies and government are strictly connected, where torture is the ordinary way to obtain information, where technology and burocracy levels are so high but so poorly designed and so poorly organized that everybody is incompetent at what they do, where computers and telephone seems to be an hybrid between third millenium and XIX century is just a way to make people think about themselves? do you think there can be any connections between the society in which Terry Gilliam lived at the time he realized the movie, him the only american member of Monty Python, squeezed between the Thatcher government and Reagan government and also the period of some of the cruellest terroristic attacks in the UK? and do you think that this Christmas atmosphere that pervades all the movie even if it is not formally indicated, all these gifts that people exchange, do you think it is something about a consumeristic attitude that was so typical of the 80’s? Do you think that Terry Gilliam uses so many different devices trying to provide us with so many information at a time that sometimes it becomes impossible to get the sense of everything because all background sounds, all these lines that appear everywhere on the walls as posters or as inscriptions on statues for instance are really so many that you need at least to watch it again and again? do you think that referring to the definition of dystopia which is an unpleasant and undesirable place that in such works should warn us about current tendencies pushed to apocalyptic scenarios, do you think that Terry Gilliam is a terrific visionary genius?
A: Yes, I
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil depicts an apparent juxtaposition between the society Sam Lowry actually lives in and the fantasy he finds refuge in. It is also apparent in the two provided images that there is disjunction between the world he is confronted with in everyday life and in his imagination. This relationship between the adjacent world of reality and fantasy leads to an eventual disconnection of Sam’s engagement with his society.
In the image of the alarm clock is an idea about modernity and its dysfunctional quality as a part of Sam’s everyday life. The alarm clock which in essence is supposed to help make everyday life more convenient does not. What actually happens is that the alarm clock as a devise malfunctions making Sam late for work.
Embodied in the second image of a man with wings is a fundamental idea about fantasy. Unlike the alarm clock which is a product of modernity, Sam’s angel wings are a natural extension of his own body that give him the ability to fly. Through this depiction of fantasy Gilliam suggests a principle about freedom that is different then the confinements of modernity. Modernity confines an individual as in the case of the alarm clock particularly prohibiting sleep after a certain time. In contrast, the angel wings as a natural extension of Sam’s body become a symbol for liberation and freedom in that they give him the ability to fly.
Gilliam’s Brazil as understood as a critique of modernity speculates on the inherent disjunction of a purely technologically induced society. His ideas build on an earlier depiction of the conspiracy of a fully automated society based on Kafka’s writings in The Trial. Kafka challenges the deliberating quality of a society who’s means of production are solely dependant on machines. The image provided by Gilliam’s angel provides a beacon of hope that offers a departure from the society of automation and rationalized chaos that exists in Brazil. The supernatural quality of the wings offer a tool that Sam uses to conquer the confinement of his everyday life. In essence through this idea Gilliam is making a speculation about the relationship between fantasy and pessimism in everyday life.
What is the role and significance of the daydream sequences in Brazil?
Brazil (first released on February 20, 1985) is a dystopic comedy film. Set “somewhere in the 20th century”. The world of Brazil is a gritty urban hellhole patched over with cosmetic surgery and “designer ducts for your discriminating taste”. The story begins with Sam Lowry (Pryce), a low level bureaucrat whose primary interests in life are his vivid daydream fantasies to the tune of a 1940’s big band hit named Brazil. He inadvertently gets involved with terrorist intrigue when his dream girl (Greist) turns up as the neighbor of a man (Buttle) arrested as a terrorist on account of a typographical error (“Tuttle”).
The theme of the film emphasizes the struggle of man and the struggle for free thinking in a world constantly suppressing such ideas. The daydreams may have resulted in relation to the suppression and oppression felt by Sam, a form of entertainment contrasting his banal life as well as a form of escapism, relief from his environment. In his real life he is an ordinary guy living alone without a partner or a purpose. In his fantasies he is heroic, in control and in charge of his actions, manifests and constructs his own set of possibilities, desires and dreams.
With its complex, subtle, and confusing plot, packed with jokes and ideas, Brazil is a movie to be watched several times. It is also packed with visual detail. The dream sequences are visually stunning, they are also gripping and engaging on an emotional and intellectual level. They reach out to the audience and inspire as well as amuse and entertain. They provide a break from the loaded plot of the movie and some of its darker elements, action and events, making the film more enjoyable and better rounded out. The dark theme of the film and the plat of events in the film and dream sequences have helped make Brazil a cult favorite.
Are the daydreams good or do they blur the distinction between fantasy and reality for everybody? They do serve to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy. I believe a hint of that was intended by the director and movie crew. The dream sequences help to maintain a degree of separation between the audience and the characters and events of the plot with may seem entirely to possible, dark and true to life. As previously stated they serve a purpose within the plot and production.
There are many questions that arise due to the incorporation of the dream sequences such as, does Tuttle exist at all, or is he just another of Sam’s daydream fantasies? In relation to Sam’s love interest, is the hate to love transition inconsistent, or is it that Sam struggles a lot to prove himself worthy to her? When this love transition comes, is it not exactly where Sam loses touch with reality completely? Again we can assume that the dream sequences are softening the jagged edges of the plot allowing the viewer to arrive to his or her own conclusion about certain aspects and events of the film.
What is the deeper meaning of the dream sequences? While some of them are clear, many seem to be confusing to the point that the viewer will dismiss them as just dreams. It should be noted that due to budget problems Gilliam was unable to shoot many of the dream sequences he had planned.
The daydreams are important and valid. They are integral components of the plot and of character development as well as weaving the two dimensions, that of reality and that of fantasy, together. They also within themselves contribute and incorporate an element of fantasy into the film, the film incorporating and depicting mainly highly realistic and possible occurrences. The dreams also depict the protagonist as a heroic figure, something that he is not in reality.
There are contrasting elements between the dreams and reality however. Sam’s dream girl, Jill is mortified of giving of herself in reality but giving in the daydreams. The dream sequences touch on the dynamics of relating and relationships in a surreal context. The dream sequences also elements of high flying romanticism, people floating and soaring through the skies, making exchanges of certain forms and discovering each other in a landscape altogether opposite in nature to the urban setting of the film. The lovers exist in their own paradise briefly and are then confronted by the reality of conflict and violence that robs them of their opportunity to unite.
It is interesting that the dreams all so slightly ominous. Both Sam and his love interest are players in the fantasies and in reality and in both of these dimensions that are killed off, first in Sam’s daydreams and secondly towards the end of the film. The dreams are premonitions of sorts, telling of things to come. They could have also been perceived as warnings. The lovers will meet, discover each other and be confronted with conflict that in turn leads to their demise. A lot of strange things occur in this film compositionally therefor the dream sequences, compositionally although not thematically, mirror the tone and nature of the film, making them significant. They are also symbols and representational of the only real freedom left in the suppressing world and urban landscape of Brazil, the freedom to dream and imagine.
Brazil: impossibility to escape from reality
“Impossibility to escape from reality”: this is how Terry Gillian describes his film Brazil. And in fact reality can never be escaped even in a crazy, fantastic, psychedelic world like the one presented to us by Brazil. We can make dreams where all our wishes come true just like the leading character, we can go Until the end of the world like in Wim Wenders’ film or volunteer ourselves to do the impossible like Tom Hanks in Joe versus the volcano still what we are, the reality in which we act will follow us until we don’t confront with it. In fact, as Tati’s Playtime, directed twenty years before, is a metaphor of modern times, somehow related to Chaplin’s masterpiece, Modern Times, Gillian’s realization, narrated like a dream done in the 1960s under the influence of LSD, is a metaphor of LIFE, of our current lives and in the end a metaphor of TIME, modern time which is our time, the time in which we live. And just like in the end of Playtime, Gillian presentes life to be like an insane marry-go-round that swirls us all in never ending circles with no meaning. We find in it all the unusual, foolish (isn’t life so?), perfecty personal way, full of British humour and irony, of observing reality, characteristic of Monty Python, the group in which Gillian started his career. Even the choise of the film’s name seems metaphorical. Apparently choosen only for its crazy architecture, the country of Brazil has in fact, just like reality, two faces: one presenting a happy land, full of scenic, magnificent views, where colors and music are the protagonists (the world famous tune Brazil goes on and on during the film) and onother one of a land full, just like all Latin American nations, of economic and political problems, where poverty and impossibility to live are common. Life in the film is controlled by a dictator just like in Orwell’s 1984 (we are in 1985), but even the dictator is a metaphor, a metaphor of all the fears and incapabilty of living we all let lead our lives. Love is always claimed as to be the aswer to all problems of the world like an extra-terrestrial entity (who actually realy knows love on our planet?) that comes, like in fairy tales, to rescue the protagonists. But shouldn’t, on the contrary, responsabilty, maturity and courage to take life once and for all in our hands be the answer to all world’s problem? Wouldn’t the finally becoming of age of the human being be the only way to respond to life’s foolishness which is only the refection of our foolishness? Wouldn’t that be The real thing suggested in his work by Tom Stoppard who cooperated in realizing this film?
What is the significance of the billboards bordering the highway?
film Brazil is the portrayal of a dystopic future, without a specific
reference to place or time. It comments strongly on both the role of technology
and the government in this new society. The main theme of the “Big
Brother” type government, who can see everything and has complete
control over the city is portrayed though many different elements. One
slightly less obvious one is signage. Throughout the film signs appear,
mainly in the background, representing the type of everyday propaganda
the citizens are bombarded with. “Be Safe: Be Suspicious",
"Trust in haste, Regret at leisure", "Don't suspect a friend,
A working definition of Dystopia has been offered for this course as follows:
“a fictional society that incorporates contemporary social trends taken to horrendous extremes in which the condition of life is extremely bad due to deprivation, oppression, or terror”. For a film to have a convincing dystopic view of our urban future, the fictional society must connect with our own society with sufficient plausibility by presenting identifiable current trends as part of the fictional society. Discuss a particular transposition from contemporary society to the fictional society of Brazil.
13. Francesco Maria Mancini
Like in the
movie Alphaville, it may be useful to start from the answer in order to
find the right question.
be this is a good question.
14. Anne-Marie Armstrong:
The film's mysterious title refers to the popular Latin song from the late 1930s by Arry Barroso. The song by Barroso is played during the film when the theme of escapism is addressed. The lyrics are as follows:
In the reality of the city in Brazil is an unforgiving, violent urban environment which is paralyzed by inept bureaucracy, and overflowing with monstrous, heaving ductwork, inept plumbing and piping that is constantly malfunctioning.
In reaction to the condition of the city, the protagonist constructs in his dreams an idyllic paradise that is free of the societal constraints he experiences in his waking life. He flies heroically over a verdant landscape of rolling hills which, perhaps, can be associated with the hilly topography of Brazil.
The escape to his dreams do not only stem from a need for physical escape from the destructive world of reality but a need for emotional escape as well. He is in search of his companion, an angelic, innocent female in his dreams who in his waking life he encounters as a truck driving engineer. Certainly, the lyrics of the theme song relate to a search and longing for the recurrence of an event which occurred in the past. The encounter of two lovers who are separated and await reunion is evident in the song. The protagonist also longs most desperately for this memory, which he experiences in his dreams.
Old Brazil - becomes the place of longing, a notion of idyllic circumstance. This dream reality is ultimately the final destination for the protagonist when he is persecuted and tortured to the point of madness for his unlawful actions. He returns to Old Brazil.
15. Liam Brown:
Question: What is the futuristic concept of beauty?
Answer: In Gilliam’s Brazil, the concept of beauty is a satirical one, as methods of torture and disfigurement mar the path to a gorgeous face or body. As a result of this, true beauty is found within, as Sam falls for a woman who for a best description would be flawed.
The continuing theme of dystopia, already examined through technology, environment and class struggles is now apparent in self-image. Sam’s mother and her friend are in a constant back and forth between their plastic surgeons with attempts to beautify themselves and make them appear younger. It gets to the point where Sam’s mother is able to be characterized no longer by what remains of her, but rather what has been taken out of her, as her coffin is filled with blood, bones and fat. Her friend continues to frequent her surgeon who only further mangles her face and body, each time certain that she is going to emerge from her cocoon as a beautiful young woman.
With role models like these it is no wonder Sam is attracted to a woman who is so comfortable with her self-image that she does not take the time to powder her nose but instead lives in the here and now of the moment, without worrying about breaking a nail. He finds strength in her self-affirmation and in doing so provides a positive alternative to the negative prospects of his mother’s futuristic alterations.
This has a strong parallel to the future of today, where the bumps and dents of human nature is becoming popular in advertisements and campaigns where beauty is within, and not in a powdered brush or silicon addition. Gilliam presents the futuristic concept of beauty, but counters it with a grounded alternative.
16. Andrea Krejcik:
BRAZIL: Relating to other futuristic films studied this semester, what
is the significance of the theme, escaping from reality, which is so predominantly
seen in the movie Brazil?
17. Aaron Nelson:
Q. Why was it called Brazil?
There is a big unanswered question in respect to the movie… some
have tried to answer it and others thought they answered it, the question
of why the Terry Gilliam’s film was called what it was called…BRAZIL.
In this case the name is Brazil.
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