I hadn’t watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil for a good couple of years when I put it on yesterday. I bought it ages ago on DVD for a few quid*, but when I haven’t seen it for a while, it starts to seem like a daunting prospect. I become convinced that watching Brazil is a folly that can end only in despair and insanity.
And then I bite the bullet and actually watch it, and spend the rest of the day humming the catchy theme tune and pondering its utter brilliance. Quote of the week:
Doesn’t it bother you, the sort of things you do at Information Retrieval?
What? I suppose you’d rather have terrorists!
That seems to be an impossibly prescient portrayal of a frightening proportion of contemporary politics. But it only seems that way because the IRA have been erased from our collective memory lest we recall how alienating their community with violence and detention without trial only created more terrorists. In actual fact they blew up Harrods while Brazil was being filmed (well, I embellish a little).
Although comparisons with 1984 abound - and it certainly can be thought of as an update replacing communism with capitalist bureaucracy, and the perpetual war against Eastasia and Eurasia with a perpetual war against nebulous terrorists - to me, the most important part of Brazil is its focus on reconciling the drudgery and horror of everyday life with the happy and idealised world of the imagination. As leading man Jonathan Pryce put it, many movies are about the real world and a dream, but Brazil is divided between a nightmare and a dream. And unlike in 1984, you may be able to escape from the former into the latter.
*At HMV, but it's now cheapest at Amazon. I think I got it for about £3.99 or something. :-)