31 August 2008


Directed by Terry Gilliam, Brazil is a touching film for those (me included) who are swamped with paperwork and lost in the administrative labyrinth. Had I watched this film five years ago when I didn't start my career, I wouldn't have understood it or sympathised with Sam Lowry, the protagonist who works in the Ministry of Information.

The plot is simple: Sam is a normal office worker, soullessly slaving away under the dominion of Mr Kurtzmann. Until the day he meets Jill, the woman that has appeared in his dreams, he falls in love and decides to escape his dreary world of officialdom. Of course, things are not easy because everything that happens is recorded and monitored by the authorities. Those who decide not to conform to the State's stringent rules and regulations will be 'deactivated' and vanish without traces.

From this perspective, Brazil may be regarded as a Kafkaesque prototype of such dystopian films as The Matrix and Minority Report, in which people are trapped and closely monitored by the State through technological advances. Looking back, I think Brazil can easily be compared to such films as Blade Runner, which similarly portrays a futuristic world that is both unlivable and soulless. The tone however is different: while Ridley Scott's Blade Runner touches upon this dystopian world through a rather serious and poetical viewpoint, Gilliam's Brazil chooses dark humour and satire (something quite British, I guess).

There're quite a few memorable scenes, including one in which Sam is ushered into his new windowless office partitioned in half by a thick wall. He even needs to share the desk. The reason I find this amusing (and sad at the same time) is simply because it resembles my office, which is similarly divided into two by bookcases. Another scene is the beginning when a bug is hit and falls into a machine, producing a printing error that leads to a series of mistakes and the unnecessary death of a wrongly accused man. This is rather chilling: it not only shows how we depend so much on machines, but also how chance works its way into this apparently foolproof system. No matter how much we try to systematise and regulate our world, things are bound to go not according to plan.

The ending, which I'm not going to reveal, is also very touching and worth waiting for.

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