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Headscratchers / Brazil

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  • They were expecting to get testimony out of Sam with torture that ends with a spike through the forehead?
    • Careful attention to almost muted dialog before that scene reveals they are trying to get him to sign the bill for the arrest, incarceration, torture and paperwork. Yes, you have to pay for your own torture in Brazil. And that is all they were after.
    • Actually, that was not a spike through his forehead - it was just the other black tubular handle of the helmet device. From that angle, it simply resembles a spike. From other angles, we can clearly see it is one of two black tubular handles.
  • What does Jill see in Sam? From her perspective, he comes off as a crazed stalker more than a few times.
    • He might be a little kookoo, but he's also the first "humanlike" Ministry man she meets. Remember she's trying to get the Ministry to free Harry Buttle. So far she's only dealt with obstructive robotlike businessmen like Dawson. Then here comes this bumbling young man, apparently in a position of power, who yells at her that he loves her and claims to be able to save her.
    • I think the government either bribed or blackmailed her into seducing him so that they could capture him. It explains her apparent 180 in her reaction to him, where she initially seems repulsed and later suddenly accepts him—albeit passively and without much evident passion.
    • I think some of this comes from watching the film now with "modern eyes". The love story is probably the thing that holds up the least about this film. There's a lot of subversiveness and subversion in this movie but the Jill character is pretty standard Hollywood fair from start to finish. I think you're just meant to see it as the standard "wearing down her defenses" love story wherein our dogged nebbish eventually gets the girl, her feelings on the proceedings be damned.
  • In the YMMV tab it's stated that Gilliam is surprised by the American Right's liking of this film, as he meant the film to be a satire on right-wing values. This might make sense for traditionally quite big-government Britain, but I thought conservatism in America was more small-government. Gilliam himself is Americannote . Is this a case of Society Marches On, and American conservatism has drifted more to the small-government end than it was when Gilliam was growing up, and in The '80s?
    • The totalitarian government in the film has a distinctly corporate flavor to it, and corporatism was definitely a feature of American conservatism in the '80s.
    • Big government vs small government is a shibboleth that doesn't really mean anything when politicians in America talk about it.
    • The government in Brazil isn't your typical unified, totalitarian regime where the trains (allegedly) run on time, orders and the chain of command is clear and discipline is harsh. Instead, it's a highly-bureaucratic and completely convoluted mess where no one really knows what they're doing, mistakes get made all the time and everyone constantly ducks responsibility. The government of Brazil isn't so much a failure because it's built on the wrong political foundations, but because it's rife with incompetence, nepotism and inefficiency. All of these things can be found on either side of the political spectrum.
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    • The satire also loses some steam because of The Horseshoe Effect. Leftists will draw parallels with Nazi Germany whereas right-wingers will compare it to Communist Russia.
      • As do people with actual experience of living through socialism note  in its end stage, like this troper from Eastern Germany. I didn't even realize the movie was supposed to be anti-capitalist until I read this wiki. The run-down state of infrastructure, the crappy-but-not-famine-level food situation and the repressive, hyper-bureaucratic nightmare of it all just felt so much like a (only somewhat exaggerated version of) home... Though after reading recently about what the insane budget allocation of the US government (like over 60% for the military) does to that country's infrastructure, I can see where the writer was coming from.
    • Liberalism in the 1970s was all about the individual struggling against the corrupt, inefficient bureaucracy, because the bureaucracy had a Nixonsian flavor. This was, after all, the same era when Daniel Ellsberg was valorized for sneaking confidential documents out of the RAND corporation. While Reaganomics and the Moral Majority was heating up, Gilliam was probably thinking of the previous decade's conception of liberalism. In many ways, Brazil is a funnier version of conspiracy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor.
  • Why does Ministry of Information allow discussions of its budget and efficiency on TV? (Especially given that so much information in the film's universe is meant to be classified.) Are they that sure that the population is totally cowed?
    • Wouldn't a better question be: Are they that inefficient?
  • What does "'ERE I AM J.H." mean? Helpmann describes it as him keeping Jeremiah's (Sam's father) spirit alive as a ghost in the machine now that Jeremiah is dead. But whether you take it as a message addressing Helpmann or being signed by Jeremiah, the initials don't make sense. Helpmann's first name is given as Eugene during the interview scene in the beginning of the film (thus his initials are "E.H.") whereas Sam's father's last name is presumably Lowry like Sam (thus having the initials "J.L."). While it's possible Jeremiah had a different surname, the fact that his widow is addressed as "Mrs Ida Lowry" would seem to contradict this. Is this a goof? Nobody in the film has the initials "J.H."!


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