October 7, 2017 by Lucian Mogosanu

I hereby inform you, under powers entrusted to me under section 47,
paragraph 7 of council order number 438476,
that Mr. Buttle, Archibald, residing at 412 North Tower, Shangrila Towers,
has been invited to assist the Ministry of Information with certain inquiries,
and that he is liable to certain financial obligations
as specified in council order RB/CZ/907/X. Sign here, please.

What would you like for Christmas?
My own credit card.

Brazil depicts to the letter the utopian society as imagined by the modern Western socialist beast, which in turn, and seemingly paradoxically, makes it your average dystopia, as previously described by authors such as Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess, Vonnegut, Dick, Kafka and many others. So what's so special about it, then?

Special about it is that Brazil represents Terry Gilliam's1 own view of this dystopian society. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, the story is very typical of such works: boy lives in a shitty, properly Soviet place, without any aspirations of his own2; boy is haunted by dreams which get him in love with girl; boy meets girl; boy gets in trouble; boy gets his head under Soviet boot. Yes, that is all there is to the story, yet in my opinion what makes the movie worth sitting through is not the story, but all the little ornaments sprinkled here and there in very good taste.

More precisely, I wasn't kidding when I said that "the utopian society as imagined by the modern Western socialist beast" is depicted to the letter. Gilliam's vision of the future was entirely accurate, in that the vast majority of items marketed to you as innovative, progressive, etc. in the year 2017 were identified as the shit they are in the year 1985. As in Brazil, freedoms are doublespoken and distorted employing the "human rights" placeholder; either at home or at work, "the people" live like cattle, in small boxes where they are constantly fed soulless propaganda under the guise of "being more connected"; technology "works", except it doesn't; every activity is thoroughly regulated, so much that regulation stands in the way of actual business; actual business is deemed "terrorism", with the exception of state-approved terrorists, who will actually destroy you with your best interest in mind. And so the story goes on and on, ad nauseam.

Throughout the movie runs a light, jocular atmosphere, sometime crossing into the dream-like surrealism -- is this a dream, or is it real? the viewer is left wondering. By the end, the line between dream and reality is drawn clearly, leaving us with the same crushed individual and the same crushingly incompetent horde of bureaucrats running the joint. To be honest, I'm completely unsatisfied with this "find refuge in your imagination" narrative (borrowed from Orwell, most likely), at least as long as technology is still accessible to those smart enough3 to do things with it.

Word has it that two other of Gilliam's films, 12 Monkeys and The Zero Theorem, are made roughly in the same style. Might be, but until those, I think it's worth giving this one a good view.

  1. You might know him from his work with the Monty Pythons. 

  2. Good thing he has other people to aspire for him, namely the Mother-figure, which incidentally is the proper representation of Orwell's so-called Big Brother. Let us quote:

    Mother: Sam, it's time for you to grow up and accept responsibility. Your poor father would be appalled at your lack of promotion. Ooh!
    Sam: Mother, I just wish you would stop interfering! I don't want promotion. I'm happy where I am.
    Mother: No, you're not. Jack Lint is a lesson to you. He doesn't have your brains, but he's got the ambition. You haven't got the ambition. Luckily, you've got me and the deputy minister. Mr. Helpmann was very close to your father.
    Doctor: Now please, Mrs. Lowry. Don't get upset. Mr. Lowry, please wait in reception. You're giving her wrinkles.

    So you see, much despite hypocritical claims to the contrary, the boy gets the chance to "promote" the way "promotion" worked in all times and places, which is via his WoT. However, he correctly intuits that his "promotion" means in fact nothing, that it's all a verynot-so cleverly concocted story luring him into becoming a fungible cog in the "we" machine.

    The moral? Scavengry is an honest trade, unlike turd polishing, shit peddling, etc., whatever's fashionable this decade. That's why Harry Tuttle is a heroterrorist and Jack Lint isn't. 

  3. I don't know if you understand the depth of this point, so let me elaborate.

    Yes, technology is important and "has disrupted" many things, ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and up until today. More importantly though, technology has since the stone age and until today been a tool of oppression, and it will be continue to be this way for as long as the human race exists, and the more the technology will improve, the more oppressed "the people" will be, hence the entire so-called dystopian derping of 20th century writers. No, technology isn't here to "make the world a better place", it does not "empower" you, and there is nothing you can do to avoid this simple fact.

    However, there has been a short period of time, beginning roughly at the end of the '80s and ending roughly now, in which "the people", that is, "the middle class", could build their own technology, say, out of transistors, and say, by making use of their personal computers. This for a very few decades rendered collectivist thinking obsolete and thus gave ordinary people control over very limited territory. You see, "the people" were suddenly empowered, but because of their natural stupidity they could not acknowledge nor could they find any meaningful use of their power. Hence the system rebalanced to give "the people" "mobile" and "cloud" and whatnot, and now you won't be able to return to the golden age when you could do whatever you liked with "your" technology, because you couldn't seize that opportunity. In short, no, you just ain't smart enough fo' that kind of shiz.

    And thus, as ever, you are left with hallucinated choice. So, pray tell, what the fuck did you think I've been preaching on this piece of virtual paper for the last four years or so? Yes, Stallman is a nutcase, I'm not far off, and who the fuck are you? 

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