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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.
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    • It's also possible that Jill's death "resisting arrest" actually occurred at the department store, and her appearances after that are his fantasies beginning to bleed into reality. This would explain why she was apparently released despite the government being convinced she was a terrorist, how she showed up at his apartment despite never having been told where he lived, and her sudden shift in attitude toward him. Him breaking in to alter her file was actually the second death in the file, not the first.
  • 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.
    • We’re not really given any information on how this government functions. For example, we never see the head of government and we don’t know about any of the political parties that exist. The only clues we’re given are the whole “prisoners found guilty of a crime pay for their incarceration,” which is a direct parody of something Margaret Thatcher said in an interview, and the kids pretending to arrest one of their friends, implying whatever government this is will last through multiple generations. There’s also a healthy dose of satire against materialism and consumerism, something “the right” wouldn’t be keen on mocking.
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    • 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.
    • 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.
      • That's fair but there's also a lot of satire about commercialism (like the kid asking Santa for their own credit card and the seemingly high scale restaurant that serves terrible food). Watching it now, I don't think the film explicitly condemns or supporters any political movement. It's more about how "modern" life is just not going to satisfy anyone.
    • 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."!
    • ERE I AM JH is, of course, an anagram of JEREMIAH, though. Eugene Helpmann really did keep his name alive every day, in one way or another.
      • Well I get that part. But in order for it to work as an anagram, both orderings need to make sense. I get the "JEREMIAH" meaning, but was does "'Ere I am, J.H." mean?
      • Why does it have to mean anything? "Obscenely Woken" is an anagram for Beyonce Knowles. Who was woken? Why was it obscene? Irrelevant - the letters rearrange, so it's by definition an anagram. Same case here. "'Ere I am, J.H." uses all the letters and is easy to remember, and it doesn't really matter that J.H. doesn't refer to anybody specific. Or it could be somebody specific but completely arbitrary - John Hancock, Jean Harlow, James Horner, Joseph Heller . . . .
    • it's an anagram of the word 'JEREMIAH'.


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