film

Brazil | 1985 | Jonathan Pryce Robert De Niro

Undoubtedly Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece. Visual brilliance combines with snappy satirical humour to create one of the best films of the 80s

Gilliam’s directorial career nearly came off the rails with Brazil, which sparked a furious battle with the studio, who subsequently embarked on an anti-marketing campaign that threatened to bury what turned out to be one of the more significant cinematic visions of the decade. The former Monty Python animator was on a roll after the success of Time Bandits and secured generous funding from Universal, only to see them chip away at his integrity and work and prevaricate over a release date.

You can understand their reservations, if never quite forgive them. Jonathan Pryce is Sam Lowry, a meek bureaucrat working for The Ministry, a paranoid and labyrinthine civil service that recalls Orwell’s inspiration for Big Brother, the wartime BBC. Pryce daydreams of donning wings and taking to the skies in an effort to escape his dull existence. When he has a chance meeting with a subversive freelance repairman (De Niro) and meets the woman who has appeared in his dreams (Greist), he decides to break out of The Ministry.

It’s a gloriously mad, brilliant film, and watched from the other side of the millennium, its malfunctioning technology, idiotic consumerism, state-sponsored feelgood double-think, and inexplicable violent terrorism are as prophetic as they are satirical. It’s as if Charlie Chaplin directed 1984 after watching Barbarella. There are also excellent special effects, a parade of grotesque supporting characters headed up by Helmond as Pryce’s mother who undergoes warped facelifts, and a sack of restless exuberant ideas.

cast
Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry
Robert De Niro as Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle
Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Ida Lowry
Ian Holm as Mr. M. Kurtzmann
Bob Hoskins as Spoor
Michael Palin as Jack Lint
Ian Richardson as Mr. Warrenn
Terry Gilliam as Smoking Man (uncredited)
Peter Vaughan as Mr. Helpmann
Kim Greist as Jill Layton
Jim Broadbent as Dr. Jaffe
Derrick O’Connor as Dowser
Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Priest
John Pierce Jones as Basement Guard
Barbara Hicks as Mrs. Alma Terrain
Charles McKeown as Harvey Lime
Kathryn Pogson as Shirley
Bryan Pringle as Spiro
Nigel Planer as Charlie–Dept. of Works
Terence Bayler as T.V. Commercial Presenter
Gorden Kaye as M.O.I. Lobby Porter
Jack Purvis as Dr. Chapman
Howard Lew Lewis as Black Maria Guard
John Flanagan as T.V. Interviewer / Salesman

crew
Director: Terry Gilliam
Script: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown

UK | 132 minutes | 1985

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