In the future, a clerk at the all-powerful Ministry of Information sticks to his ideals and ends up crushed by the system in this half comedy, half horror story from former 'Monty Python' animator Terry Gilliam. Like Orwell's novel '1984', which it echoes, the future is seen from a 1940's perspective. Jonathan Pryce stars, with Robert De Niro making a cameo appearance as an excessively diligent sewage inspector.
If Franz Kafka had been an animator and film director--oh, and a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus--Brazil
is the sort of outrageously dystopian satire one could easily imagine him making. In fact it was made by Terry Gilliam, who is all of the above except, of course, Franz Kafka. Be that as it may, Gilliam captures the paranoid-subversive spirit of Kafka's The Trial
(along with his own Python animation) in this bureaucratic nightmare-comedy about a meek government clerk named Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) whose life is destroyed by a simple bug. It's not a software bug but a real bug (no doubt related to Kafka's famous Metamorphosis
insect) that gets squashed in a printer and causes a typographical error unjustly identifying an innocent citizen, one Mr Buttle, as suspected terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro). When Sam becomes enmeshed in unravelling this bureaucratic tangle, he himself winds up labelled as a miscreant. The movie presents such an unrelentingly imaginative and savage vision of 20th-century bureaucracy that it almost became a victim of small-minded studio management itself--until Gilliam surreptitiously screened his cut for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, who named it the best movie of 1985 and virtually embarrassed Universal into releasing it. --Jim Emerson
On the DVD: Brazil comes to DVD in a welcome anamorphic print of the full director's cut--here running some 136 minutes. Disappointingly the only extra feature is the 30-minute making-of documentary "What Is Brazil?", which consists of on-set and behind-the-scenes interviews. There's nothing about the film's controversial release history (covered so comprehensively on the North American Criterion Collection release), nor is Gilliam's illuminating, irreverent directorial commentary anywhere to be found. The only other extra here is the ubiquitous theatrical trailer. A welcome release of a real classic, then, but something of a missed opportunity. --Mark Walker