07/09/2005: Brazil Gets Closer...
I’ve been meaning to write about this movie: Brazil (Sheesh, now 20yrs old – 1985) and its’ allegorical relation to the present state of “terrorist” attacks.
For anyone unfamiliar with this “Cult Classic” it stars Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry; Kim Greist as Jill Layton; Robert De Niro as Archibald 'Harry' Tuttle; Katherine Helmond .as Mrs. Ida Lowry; Ian Holm as Mr. M. Kurtzmann; Bob Hoskins as Spoor; Michael Palin as Jack Lint; Ian Richardson as Mr. Warrenn; Peter Vaughan as Mr. Helpmann; and Jim Broadbent as Dr. Jaffe.
This cast of wonderful actors is part of the movie’s charm, but more it’s the weird retro-futuristic fantasy and absurd Big-Brother Bureaucracy of the piece that seems most prescient today. You never really know who or what these terrorists in Brazil are, nor what their gripe is with society – except perhaps a reluctance to fill out paperwork, or as Mr. Helpmann describes it, “A case of bad Sportsmanship.”
Here are a rundown of the plot:
”This Sci-fi Orwellian vision of the future: A Computer Techno-Wizard, Sam Lowry, is a bureaucrat in a retro-future. He has imaginings and nightly dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams..
Trying to correct the paperwork mixup that leads to the imprisonment of Mr. Buttle, shoe repairman, instead of Harry Tuttle, illegal freelance Heating Engineer, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton.
He mistakenly believes her to part of the Terrorist network responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, and tries to save her too. The mistake just gets bigger and bigger, sucking him in with it until he gets branded a terrorist and becomes hunted by the state himself in the process of correcting the mistake.”
Now, what makes me think of this movie (absurd and far fetched as it may have seemed in 1985) is the “everyday” quality to the bombings. The society while not immune from the effects, simply goes about it’s business, shopping, lunching, daily affairs – stepping over and past the poor unfortunate victims -- Best left to the Professionals to handle. Also the “happy in their work” Information Retrieval “torturers” -- which until the photos of a smiling Lyndie England giving her penial “thumbs-up” from Abu Ghriab surfaced and went round the world, also seemed like an “over-the-top-absurdity” of parody proportions as only the creators of Monty Python could produce.
But today is this piece When Fear Stalks, Tune Out by John Tierney (NY Times):
”Tony Blair was as eloquent as ever when he faced the press at the G-8 summit meeting yesterday, but what was most impressive was what he didn't say. After uttering three sentences of gratitude to the other leaders for their support after the London attacks, he dropped the subject of terror
Instead of giving murderers publicity on worldwide television, he talked about poverty in Africa and global warming. When a reporter tried to distract him by asking what "went wrong" in London, he said it was the terrorists' fault and went right back to the business of the G-8.
But right now the terrorists look more like a small group of loosely organized killers who are less like an army than like lightning bolts - scary but rarely fatal. Except that the risk of being struck by lightning is much higher than the risk of being killed by a terrorist.
It may seem coldblooded to think in probabilities after a tragedy, but contemplating those odds made my walks home a lot easier during the snipers' spree. The other strategy that helped was turning off the television whenever the police and the politicians held press conferences detailing everything they were doing to protect the public.
Occasionally one of those officials urged people to keep their perspective and go on with life, but there was no one quite like Tony Blair. Instead of promising security at home, he discussed problems overseas that he could do something about. Instead of talking about the need for Britons to move on, he moved on.”
And while I wholehearted agree with the idea that it does not do to elevate these murdering bastards to a status beyond their petty, vindictive violence, nor succumb to fear – I wonder how much closer we are to the weird Orwellian absurdities of Brazil than I ever imagined possible when I first saw this film back in 1985.
Karen on 07.09.05 @ 08:43 AM CST