Devon Seltzer’s review published on Letterboxd:
***Continuing My Education: Lesson #7***
***Dinner with Gilliam - 4th Course***
Like any good noir, Brazil opens with a murder, as an innocent house fly is killed in the prime of its life, a morbid occurrence which triggers an earth-shattering series of events. With Brazil, Terry Gilliam delivers his first solo masterpiece, a film so full of imagination that there is not a single dull frame. Brazil defies genre classification as a sci-fi/fantasy/neo-noir/romantic-comedy, which follows our hero Sam Lowry, a lowly official who is content to work his menial job and dream his fanciful dreams, however, a simple typo sends Sam's life into a tailspin full of terrorism, murder, and illegal appliance repair.
It is pretty much required that any dystopian story needs to have underlying social messages, and Brazil is no exception. The world of the film is cold and calculated, with the rich living lavishly on the top and the poor living in squalor. The world's authority is the Ministry of Intelligence, a convoluted, multi-armed bureau stunted by over-aggression and too much paperwork. Gilliam has never been shy about attacking the elite of society in his works, and Brazil follows suit, we don't envy the oblivious rich with their hideous outfits and ghoulish plastic-surgery. We don't respect the government with its inefficient web of hallways and suited nobodies. Instead, we root for the every man, the poor oppressed or those just stuck in the system without any real way to get out.
The world Gilliam and production designer Norman Garwood craft for the film is stunning, with the city's layout and architectural telling the story just as well as the characters. Sam lives in an apartment rather reminiscent of a filing cabinet, the M.O.I. offices are labyrinths of concrete and duct work, and the homes of the wealthy are opulent and tacky. I'd describe the look of the film as art-deco cyberpunk, looking like it is set sometime in the futuristic 1920s, with lots of rough hewn statues, industrial waste-lands, and bulky plastic.
As someone who works in a miserable office job, spending his days typing until his fingers ache and only finding solace in the adventures his mind can escape too, I found Brazil hit really, really close to home. Like Sam, I do my job well and pay the bills, but I secretly long for adventure to loom on the horizon, I want to soar through the skies on wings of chrome-silver, I want to battle cyber-samurai and hulking baby-faced beasts. Alas, for now I must resign myself to giving my imagination over to Terry Gilliam and his masterful work Brazil, a wonder trip of originality, with a stellar cast, flawless design work and special effects, beautiful camera work and lighting from Gilliam and cinematographer Roger Pratt, and a disturbingly realistic view on the future of human society, with an ending so perfect I couldn't have dreamt up a better one. Brazil is just the kind of respite a paperwork weary soul like myself needs on the weekend, and thinking back on this film will certainly help pass the hours when I return to my cube shaped prison come Monday.