DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
What do you get when you mix Python with Kafka and put it in an Orwellian nightmare? You get Gilliam's unsung masterpiece that manages to be both dark satire and visionary piece of visual art.
It is in essence a fierce attack on bureaucracy and totalitarianism, told as a tale greatly inspired by 1984, but unique in its deep emotive layers and beautiful aesthetics. Gilliam is often a messy director, but here he is in perfect balance. He gives us his unique visual flair without losing sight of the story and its themes.
Gilliam's film sings a song for the individual, the romantic and for love. Struggling through a web of red tape and one clerical error we witness the trials and tribulations of a deeply unhappy man with hidden fantasies (a stunning performance by Pryce). He desperately longs for an isolated romance with his lover, away from the oppressive and ever present society. We are shown these inner struggles fantastic dream sequences, that show us an idyllc setting under constant threat from the ever present mechanized society. The symbolism here is deep and breathtakingly beautiful.
An important feature of a satire is that it has to be funny as well. This film is riddled with sharp, biting and absurd comedy, all handled with great intelligence and never cheap. In all its absurdness, the world we are shown is as strange as it is recognizable. Herein Gilliam manages to find the humour making us participants in a very clever inside joke and involving us as an audience.
This film has a perfect balance. It appeals to the mind and the heart and is a visual delight.