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Brazil Is Nutty

  • Date Submitted: 05/31/2013 06:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 45.8 
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“It’s not my department”—The Anti-hero in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

The movies often show us romantic visions of characters rising from humble origins to become great heroes.   The examples are practically endless: Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, William Wallace, Peter Parker, Marty McFly, Buffy Vampire Slayer.   Terry Gilliam, on the other hand offers a much grimmer, more pessimistic view of human potential.   In his dystopia, Brazil, he seems to suggest that human beings are nothing more than products of their environment, and that heroic dreams of overthrowing a corrupt society and rescuing the fair maiden are nothing more than that—dreams.  
The world of Brazil is dark and for the most part dingy, run by a brutal bureaucracy intent on tackling the elusive threat of “terrorists”.   Our protagonist, Sam Lowry, is a child of the pampered upper classes: the son of a (deceased) highly placed bureaucrat in the prestigious Ministry of Information Retrieval and a Socialite mother obsessed with preserving her appearance through constant cosmetic surgical procedures and with engineering her son’s social success.
Sam’s background has left him something of a weakling.   While he is frequently subject to petty rages—as when his air conditioning quits and a recorded voice tells him, “Central Services cannot take calls centrally between 2300 and 0900 hours—have a nice day—this has not been a recording”—or when his boss has forged Sam’s signature to refuse a promotion and Sam’s only responses are, “What!   Shit!” and “Yes… No… I don’t know.”   His typical response to difficulty or duress is to curse futilely and suck it up rather than to do something about his problems.
Another legacy of Sam’s sheltered upbringing is his ignorance of (or willful blindness to) other people’s suffering—suffering frequently doled out by the government he works for.   When a bomb goes off in a restaurant where Sam is attending a luncheon hosted by his mother many people are badly...


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