Brazil (film)

Infobox Film
name =Brazil

imdb_id =088846
amg_id = 1:6977
writer =Terry Gilliam
Tom Stoppard
Charles McKeown
starring =Jonathan Pryce
Kim Greist
Michael Palin
Robert De Niro
Katherine Helmond
Bob Hoskins
Ian Holm
director =Terry Gilliam
producer =Arnon Milchan
Joseph P. Grace
distributor =20th Century Fox (Europe)
Universal Pictures (US)
released = France:
February 20, 1985
United Kingdom:
February 22, 1985
United States:
December 18, 1985
runtime =94 min.
Television Cut
136 min.
Theatrical Cut
142 min.
Director's Cut
country = United Kingdom
language = English
music = Michael Kamen
editing = Julian Doyle
cinematography = Roger Pratt
awards =
budget = $15,000,000 (estimated)
gross = $9,929,000 (USA)

"Brazil" is a 1985 dystopian black comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam. It was written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard and stars actor Jonathan Pryce. The film also features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm.


"Brazil" evokes the melancholy, dreamlike quality of its theme song, an English translation of a 1939 Brazilian song, "Aquarela do Brasil," featured in Disney's "Saludos Amigos" (1942). In that escapist film, Brazil is represented as a romantic, fantasy location that is the opposite of gloomy, northern countries. Gilliam was inspired by this song to create the fictional totalitarian government and the overall dystopian mood of the film.

The film centers on Sam Lowry, a young man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living a life in a small apartment, set in a dystopian world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines. "Brazil"'s bureaucratic, totalitarian government is reminiscent of the government depicted in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", except that it has a buffoonish, slap-stick quality, and lacks any kind of figurehead.

Jack Mathews, movie critic and author of "The Battle of Brazil" (1987), characterized the film as "satirizing the bureaucratic, largely dysfunctional industrial world that had been driving [Gilliam] crazy all his life."cite journal | last = Matthews | first = Jack | title = Dreaming Brazil | journal = Essay accompanying DVD release by The Criterion Collection] Though a success in Europe, the film flopped upon initial release in North America, even with the extra publicity of the fight with the studio. It has since become a cult classic.

Plot synopsis

"Brazil" recounts the story of Sam Lowry, a low-level government employee who is conflicted about his role in an overreaching bureaucracy. We learn that he is initially happy with his "dead end job" and simple life, and that he habitually escapes into a fantasy world of romantic struggles. His contented but lonely life becomes complicated by his mother's attempts to secure him a promotion, the intrusion of a renegade heating engineer, and the real-life appearance of the woman of his dreams.

Throughout the story Sam becomes involved in complicated and life-threatening attempts to secure himself happiness, while also developing a strong hatred for the system of which he is a part. Ultimately, his efforts culminate into a violent and tragic climax, the outcome of which depends entirely on his friends' loyalty to Sam over their loyalty to the system that controls them.


Infobox movie certificates
Argentina = 16
Australia = M
Brazil = 14
Chile = 18
France = 12
United_Kingdom = 15
United_States = R


Gilliam sometimes refers to this film as the second of a trilogy of movies, starting with "Time Bandits" (1981) and ending with "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" (1989). All are about the "craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible." All three movies also focus on these struggles and attempts to escape them through imagination; "Time Bandits", through the eyes of a child, "Brazil", through the eyes of a thirty-something year old, and "Munchausen", through the eyes of an elderly man.

In "Brazil", Sam is not so much beset by malicious characters as he is by a vast, impersonal, and indifferent social structure that is both hypocritical and pedantic for its own sake. The individual villains are neither malicious nor sadistic, they are merely doing their jobs.

The jilted sense of priorities that adult life often entails are also another theme. The elevation of meaningless considerations of status and vanity over personal happiness and well being is continuously portrayed throughout the movie. At one point, a police officer encourages a prisoner to cooperate, not because he is about to be tortured but because prolonged imprisonment could jeopardize his credit rating.

John Scalzi's "Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies" describes the film as a dystopian satire.

Gilliam has stated that "Brazil" was inspired by "Nineteen Eighty-Four" — which he has admitted never having read Terry Gilliam in his audio commentary for "Brazil", released by The Criterion Collection on laserdisc 1995 and re-released on DVD in 1999 and 2006] — but is written from today's perspective rather than looking to the future as Orwell's novel did (although it should be noted that Orwell considered "Nineteen Eighty-Four" to be about the year 1948). Some scenes resemble the film which had been released a year earlier. In Gilliam's words "Brazil" was, "the "Nineteen Eighty-Four" for 1984." In fact, Gilliam's working title for the movie was "1984½", which also pays tribute to the influence of Fellini's "".

Art design

"Brazil" is noteworthy for the way its strong visual imagery tends to overwhelm the plot. One visual element which figures prominently in the movie is the ducts, specifically the snakelike "flex-ducts" used in modern construction. The film opens with an advertisement for different styles of ducting available for homes, seen on a display of television sets in a shop, which is then blown up in a terrorist bombing.

Lowry's apartment is dominated by a wall consisting entirely of metal panels which conceal an incorrigible air-conditioning system, and his hero is the guerrilla mechanic Tuttle, who is the only person able to tame this monster. Later, Lowry lunches in a restaurant dominated by a giant centerpiece where the "flowers" are actually flex-ducts. After that, when Lowry makes a potentially seditious nighttime visit to his office, the emptiness of the government building's gigantic lobby is set off by maintenance men's floor buffing machines, trailing long cords of flex-duct.

In the working-class Buttle home, members of the Buttle family have to live their lives while giving way to ducts that in fact hinder their daily activities. In Sam's home, the ducts are not visible initially, but make their presence felt as an undertone, particularly when they break down. In the Department of Records, the ducts are a visible part of the environment, but above everyone's heads. Finally, in the Department of Information Retrieval, there are no ducts at all.


Ary Barroso's 1939 song "Aquarela do Brasil" (English: "Watercolor of Brazil", often simply "Brazil") is the leitmotif of the movie, although other background music is also utilized. Michael Kamen, who scored the music for the film, originally recorded "Brazil" with vocals by Kate Bush. This recording was not included in the actual film or the original soundtrack release; however, it has been subsequently released on re-pressings of the soundtrack.(Kamen also composed music for Gilliam's "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen".)


*Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry
*Kim Greist as Jill Layton
*Michael Palin as Jack Lint
*Robert De Niro as Archibald “Harry” Tuttle
*Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Ida Lowry
*Bob Hoskins as Spoor
*Derrick O'Connor as Dowser
*Ian Holm as Mr. Kurtzmann
*Jim Broadbent as Dr. Jaffe
*Ian Richardson as Mr. Warrenn
*Peter Vaughan as Mr. Helpmann
*Brian Miller as Mr. Buttle
*Barbara Hicks as Mrs. Alma Terrain
*Charles McKeown as Harvey Lime
*Kathryn Pogson as Shirley
*Bryan Pringle as Spiro (waiter)
*Sheila Reid as Mrs. Buttle
*Derek Deadman as Bill (Dept. of Works, repairing Buttle's ceiling)
*Nigel Planer as Charlie (Dept. of Works, repairing Buttle's ceiling)
*Gorden Kaye as M.O.I. Lobby Porter
*Jack Purvis as Dr. Chapman
*Elizabeth Spender as Alison/'Barbara' Lint
*Myrtle Devenish as Typist in Jack's Office
*Holly Gilliam as Holly Lint
*Terry Gilliam as smoking man at Shang-ri La Towers

Cast information

Robert De Niro originally wanted to play Jack, but Gilliam had already promised the role to Michael Palin. De Niro still wanted to be in the film, and so was cast as Tuttle instead.

Terry Gilliam's daughter Holly Gilliam plays Jack Lint's daughter Holly.


Theatrical releases

The movie was produced by Arnon Milchan's company Embassy International Pictures (not to be confused with Joseph E. Levine's Embassy Pictures). Gilliam's original cut of the film is 142 minutes long and ends on a dark note. This version was released internationally outside the US by 20th Century Fox.

US distribution was handled by Universal. Universal executives thought the ending tested poorly, and Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg insisted on dramatically re-editing the film to give it a happy ending, a decision that Gilliam resisted vigorously. As with the cult science fiction film "Blade Runner" (1982), which had been released three years earlier, a version of "Brazil" was created by the movie studio with a more consumer-friendly ending. After a lengthy delay with no sign of the film being released, Gilliam took out a full-page ad in the trade magazine "Variety" urging Sheinberg to release "Brazil" in its intended version. Eventually, after Gilliam conducted secret private screenings (without the studio's knowledge), "Brazil" was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for "Best Picture", which prompted Universal to finally agree to release a modified 131-minute version supervised by Gilliam, in 1985. [The clashes between Sheinberg and Gilliam are also documented in Matthews' book "The Battle of Brazil" (1987, ISBN 0-517-56538-2).]

Video releases

In North America, the film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in the 131-minute US version. A slightly modified 142-minute version of the original European cut was first made available in a 5-disc "Criterion Collection" laserdisc box set in 1996, and is currently available on DVD (referred to in the director's commentary as the "fifth and final cut", it uses the American cloud opening instead of a stark blank screen setting the time and place).

Sheinberg's edit, the 94-minute so-called "Love Conquers All" version, was shown on syndicated television and was first made available for sale to consumers as a separate disc in the Criterion laserdisc box set, and subsequent DVD three-disc set in 1999 (both of which also featured a special video documentary version of Jack Mathews' book, with new Gilliam interviews and tape-recorded interviews from Sid Sheinberg for the original book).

The box set presents the feature film in its correct aspect ratio for the first time, but the version on the original DVD release is not enhanced for newer widescreen TVs. New 16:9-enhanced editions of the film in both a complete set and separate film-only disc were re-issued on DVD by Criterion on September 5th, 2006.

Differences between various versions

The changes in each version are as follows:

cenes missing in the British cut

These are scenes missing in the UK release of the film and what Americans saw in US theaters. The reasons for excluding these scenes from the UK version and adding them to the US version are unknown.
*Clouds open and close the film in the American Release, some of the footage of these clouds was extraneous footage from "The Never Ending Story". The clouds were in fact present in the original script; Gilliam confesses that he used the opportunity of the American edit to put them back in, because he actually liked it both ways. Furthermore, it gave him the opportunity to play the first bars of the song 'Brazil' as background music, as a reminder to the viewers who had trouble understanding the film's title.
*After watching Mrs. Lowry's first plastic surgery treatment, Sam sarcastically exclaims "My God, it works!"
*Jack says "You look like you've seen a ghost, Sam..." to Sam at the entrance of the Ministry of Records when Sam sees Jill Layton. This scene is also present in the Sheinberg cut of the film.

cenes missing in the American cut

These are scenes missing in the US release of the film and what British audiences saw in UK theaters. These scenes were edited for the US release by Sheinberg because he thought that an American audience would be highly disturbed and unsettled by their content and length.

*Shortly before the troops storm Mrs. Buttle's home, her daughter says to her "Father Christmas can't come if you haven't got a chimney." Mrs. Buttle replies with "You'll see."
*A brief scene involving Sam and his mother, Ida, entering the restaurant where they meet Mrs. Terrain and Shirley. They have to pass through a metal detector in order to gain entrance, and Ida's present to Sam (one of the "Executive Decision Makers", seen later in the movie) sets off the alarm.
*Part of the beginning of the first "Samurai" dream sequence, where Sam explores through the concrete labyrinth he finds himself in. The American version makes this sequence three separate ones while the UK release is one whole sequence.
*A scene where Sam and Jill lie in bed after the implied consummation of their relationship. Jill has taken off the wig she was wearing in the scene before, and has a silver bow tied around her naked body. She says to Sam: "Something for an executive?" and he unties her.
*The "Interrogation" scene, where Sam is charged with all of the violations of the law he committed throughout the film, including "wasting Ministry time and paper."
*The "Father Christmas" scene where Helpmann visits Sam after his booking, Helpmann is dressed as Santa Claus. Among other things, Helpmann informs Sam that Jill Layton has been killed...twice.
*The European release begins abruptly with the "Central Services" advert about ducts, and ends with a held shot of Lowry in the cooling tower without clouds present in the American release.

The Sheinberg Edit (Love Conquers All/TV Edit)

The Sheinberg Edit also aired on syndicated TV for time restrictions on some occasions and it pleased Gilliam as it showed how bad the studio cut of the film was.
*When the ministry building is blown up, the piece of paper that is shown is a "deleted" form for Harry Tuttle.
*It is made clear in this version that Tuttle is a terrorist. Examples include the man in the white lab coat in the beginning (who kills the fly that causes the film's events) isn't watching an interview with Helpmann, but an "Arrest and Detainment" show about Tuttle and Sam's fellow employees watching the film without music with gunshots left.
*The scene at the restaurant starts the film with Shirley offering Sam the salt, and the explosion in the restaurant.
*Extended, more romantic dialogue between Sam and Jill is added after Tuttle switches the sewage and air pipes at Sam's flat. This is one of many scenes between Jill and Sam that was cut out of Gilliam's cut and re-added for this one.
*You do not see the inflamed guard when the police vehicle crashes during the chase.
*It is never stated that Buttle is dead, only asked by his wife.
*Lots of curse words were replaced with tamer dialogue.
*The "Something for an executive" scene is intact, however, afterwards, only Sam is captured while Jill is not killed.
*The film ends with a brief sequence where Jill wakes Sam in their country hideaway. Sam says "I don't dream any more", looks at a picture on the wall of himself wearing the dream-sequence wings, and the film ends with them flying up into the heavens. Jack Lint and Mr. Helpmann do not interrupt the ending of the fantasy (thereby altering the ending of the film).
*Many of the fantasy sequences are missing, or slightly different, like having an opaque surrounding the scene.
*Extended dialogue between Jill and Sam outside his apartment, and while in the truck is added.
*Extended dialogue in the scene where Sam meets Jack at Information Retrieval is added as well, and Jack has his daughter in his office.
*A cut of "Casablanca" featuring the line "Here's looking at you, kid." right after Sam leaves Kurtzmann's office.
*Jack says "You look like you've seen a ghost, Sam..." to Sam at the entrance of the Ministry of Records when Sam sees Jill Layton. This scene is also in the American cut.

Critical response

The film has a 97% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, with 38 out of 39 reviewers giving positive reviews.

"Chicago Sun Times" Film Critic Roger Ebert disliked it, giving it 2 out of 4 stars, saying it "is awash in elaborate special effects, sensational sets, apocalyptic scenes of destruction and a general lack of discipline," as well as, "The movie is very hard to follow. I have seen it twice, and am still not sure exactly who all the characters are, or how they fit." [ [ :: :: Reviews :: Brazil (xhtml) ] ]

"Los Angeles Times" Critic Kenneth Turan described the film as "the most potent piece of satiric political cinema since "Dr. Strangelove".

"New York Times" film critic Janet Maslin was very positive towards the film upon its release. She stated that "Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," a jaunty, wittily observed vision of an extremely bleak future, is a superb example of the power of comedy to underscore serious ideas, even solemn ones."

In 2004 the magazine "Total Film" named "Brazil" the 20th greatest British movie of all time. In 2005 "Time" magazine's film reviewers Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel named "Brazil" in an unordered list of the 100 best films of all time. In 2006 Channel 4 voted "Brazil" one of the "50 Films to See Before You Die", shortly before its broadcast on FilmFour.

Wired Magazine ranked "Brazil" number 5 in its list of the top 20 sci-fi movies.Wired Magazine, Issue 10.06, Jun 2002 (]

"Entertainment Weekly" listed "Brazil" as the sixth best science-fiction piece of media released since 1982. [cite news | author = Josh Wolk | title = The Sci-Fi 25 | publisher = Entertainment Weekly | date = 2007-05-07 | url =,,20036782_20037403_20037541_20,00.html | accessdate=2007-06-21]

Rob Thomas of Madison's Capital Times gave the film 5 out of 5 stars and stated "it has visual style and imagination to burn, but it's the ideas behind it that make it a modern classic...".

Numerous Hollywood directors, actors, and auteurs cite the film as a major artistic and cultural influence.

Cultural references in Brazil to other works

*The movie that Sam's employees watch has stock music from the DeWolfe music library that also appears in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (from Lancelot's assault on the castle to save the prince), which Gilliam co-directed. This music is not present in the Sheinberg edit of the film.
* During the escape from the ministry building near the end of the film, government soldiers parody the famous "Odessa Steps" sequence from the film The Battleship Potemkin. Instead of a baby carriage rolling down the stairs after the Tsar's soldiers kill the mother, it is a janitor's cleaning machine that rolls down the stairs soon after the janitor is killed.
*The film often mentions an ambiguous form called 27B-Stroke-6. 27B was the number of George Orwell's apartment in London.cite news
title = George Orwell, Big Brother is watching your house
work = Evening Standard
pages =
language = English
publisher =
date = 2007-03-31
url =,+Big+Brother+is+watching+your+house/
accessdate =
*When Sam arrives at Jack's office Winston Smith's torture is being transcribedFact|date=September 2008

References in popular culture

*In the 1997 video game "", there is a cheat code called 'eriamjh' which enables the player character to fly.
*In the video game "", Sam Fisher tells a security guard "Pretend I'm Harry Tuttle", "I'm an ill-tempered, heavily-armed heating engineer asking about your ventilation system" and "The adventure, the travel" in a reference to his work as a spy and his ability to enter areas without recognition by anyone. A response given by a guard when asked "Is there anything else?" has been "Yeah, don't forget your 27B(stroke)6".
* Hot Hot Heat's video for their song "Bandages" features a spa with a face stretching scene reminiscent of the facelift scene.
*The opening line of the British black metal band Cradle of Filth song "Lord Abortion" ("Care for a little necrophilia?") is a quote from "Brazil" (voiced by Kim Greist in the film but delivered here by Toni King, Dani's wife). The torture room scene in the "From the Cradle to Enslave" video is also a "Brazil" homage.
* Minneapolis geek rock band Psychopop recorded "Harry Tuttle (Man of Intrigue)", a song about the Robert De Niro character and his adventures in the film.
* "Wired"'s Threat Level blog ("privacy, security, politics, and crime online") has the URL ""
* The complex bureaucracy that employs Hermes Conrad in "Futurama" bears intentional similarities to "Brazil".
* The Dead Kennedys song "Soup is good Food" contains the lyric "you no longer exist".
* In film "π", the technology of "Brazil" inspired the design of Max Cohen's apartment.cite news
last = Adams
first = Sam
coauthors =
title = Pi Brain
work = Philadelphia City Paper
pages =
language = English
publisher =
date = 1998-07-23
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-10
* In an interview with MTV, Terry Gilliam said that at the end of nine months of filming he lost all feeling in his legs and entered a catatonic state for a week. [cite news
last = Carroll
first = Larry
title = Terry Gilliam Tilts At Hollywood Yet Again
work = MTV Movie News
publisher =
date = 2006-10-16
url =
format =
accessdate = 2008-03-10
* The government vehicles seen in the film are "Messerschmitt" automobiles, German one seater cars built in the 50s-60s by the Messerschmitt firm that built fighter planes (Me 109) in WWII for Germany (the cockpits of the planes and the cars resemble each other), an apparent symbol of totalitarianism.
* The writers of the Paranoia role-playing game openly cite "Brazil" as a source of inspiration for the game's dystopian world, Alpha Complex. Along with the Central Processing Unit's strong resemblance to the bureaucratic hell of the Ministry of Information, the supplement book "Service, Service!" features a Technical Services guerrilla serviceman archetype, called a Tuttle.
* Progressive-psychedelic band Brazil take their name from the film, as well as borrow many of its themes.
* "Brazil" was the codename of what became the third release of the Plan 9 from Bell Labs operating system.
*The PC game The Longest Journey features numerous references to the film, including a parody puzzle which the player solves by giving a pair of familiar looking repairmen a 27B(stroke)6 form. [ ]
* Brazil Rendering System is named after the film.

ee also

*List of films recut by studio
*Nineteen Eighty-Four


Further reading

*Jack Matthews, "The Battle of Brazil" (1987), ISBN 0-517-56538-2.

External links

* [ "Brazil"] at Rotten Tomatoes
* [ Review by "Science Fiction Weekly"]
* [ "BRAZIL" Screenplay] , Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard & Charles McKeown, [ Daily Script] website
* [ "Brazil"] at Future Times Magazine
* [ DGA magazine interview with Gilliam]

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