BP’s Top 100 Movie List Challenge #68: Brazil, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
I have a real soft spot in my heart for daydreamers, and Sam Lowry is certainly a daydreamer. I wasn’t sure how I would respond to Brazil, but I really enjoyed the strange world building and the story of man chasing down a dream in a world that only seems surface deep. Jonathan Pryce’s portrayal of Sam made him a bright spot to grasp onto in the bleak, grey world that writer/director Terry Gilliam sets the film in. The world is cold, industrial, and full of hard angles. In the middle of all that is a man who just wants to be a hero and find love. He dreams of flying free and fighting oppression. In contrast, his real day job is as just another suit working for the government. As much I enjoyed Pryce’s performance, I do have to say anytime he was in a fight scene it really stood out that he is not an actor who seems naturally suited to action.
The world building in the film is another of its strongest points. The visual details throughout add so much to the story without ever being too distracting. The social interactions between people show how shallow everyone is, and how little they care for escaping their bleak reality. Sam’s mother and her friend, who are constantly getting treatments to look younger, are perfect example. Sam’s mother doesn’t listen to him when she gets him the promotion he doesn’t want; she just wants him to look more important. The fact that the film is set at Christmas time offers a lot of strong contrast as well. Christmas is a season of kindness, hope, and giving but in Brazil Christmas is a time of handing over meaningless symbols of affection.
I was astounded by the sheer number of great British actors who showed up throughout the film. It was great to see Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, and Jim Broadbent pop in and out the film, each representing a different messed-up part of the world that they inhabit. Broadbent is stretching and slicing the age off of women’s faces, Holm is a bureaucratic cog, and Hoskins is the worst of government-employed manual labor. One of the most tragic characters is Michael Palin as Jack Lint. Lint is a top government employee who at times is a valued friend and kind father but also a professional torturer. In their society they don’t even give that type of contradiction a second thought. This is also brilliantly displayed by Lint’s secretary who types up the transcripts of the torture sessions with cold disconnection.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Brazil ranking: Cruiser