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Subject: BRAZIL (Movie, 1985) Frequently Asked Questions v1.3

This article was archived around: 2 Oct 1996 23:06:27 GMT

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Archive-name: movies/brazil-faq Last-modified: 1996/10/3 Version: 1.3
=========================================================================== BRAZIL Frequently Asked Questions Copyright 1996 David S. Cowen Release 1.3 =========================================================================== INTRODUCTION Ten years after the release of BRAZIL, Terry Gilliam's film remains one of the movies most valued by individuals on the net. As the complex plot and unique style of BRAZIL have endeared fans, the legendary battle about BRAZIL's release between Gilliam and Sid Sheinberg (then president of Universal pictures, the studio responsible for releasing Brazil in the US) has become an apocryphal part of film history, as an underdog director has successfully battled a studio to get his film released as he intended it. This FAQ has been created to answer frequently asked questions pertaining to all matters regarding the film. This list will be posted twice per year to rec.arts.movies.misc, news.answers, and rec.answers. This FAQ may be posted to alt.cult-movies and alt.movies.terry-gilliam at my discretion. The followup field is set to rec.arts.movies.misc This FAQ is available for anonymous FTP wherever news.answers is archived, for example: rtfm.mit.edu:/pub/usenet/news.answers/movies/brazil-faq There are many other FTP sites in Northern America, Europe and Asia which archive this FAQ. Use archie or veronica to find one near you. A Japanese version of the FAQ is being developed! Please consult http://www.hf.rim.or.jp/~morrow/kb/kb.cgi?b=brazil&c=v&num=40 for developments on the translation. The BRAZIL FAQ is available on the WWW at http://www.execpc.com /brazil/brazil.html, and also at http://poppy.kaist.ac.kr/cinema/ brazil/ This FAQ contains spoilers. =========================================================================== TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. I didn't understand the film at all. What's it all about? 2. Why were problems with BRAZIL's release in America? 3. How many versions of BRAZIL have been released? What are the differences between them? 4. How do I get the version I want to see on laserdisc? 5. What is the title BRAZIL supposed to mean? 6. How does BRAZIL fit in with Gilliam's other movies? 7. What are the lyrics to the song _Brazil_? Is a soundtrack available? 8. The sets are stunning. Where were they filmed? 9. What do all the signs say? 10. What is Information Retrieval Charging? 11. What does the singing telegram girl sing? 12. Miscellaneous questions, answers and observations. 13. Where can I get more information about BRAZIL? 14. Notable Quotes. =========================================================================== 1. I didn't understand the film at all. What's it all about? BRAZIL is a film rich in depth -- the plot does not focus on just one subject, but instead contains many different themes which weave together. The film follows the character of Sam Lowry, a clerk in the records department of a huge government bureaucracy, the Ministry of Information. Sam's perception of the world alternates between being trapped as a mere "cog in the machine" in a grim world of paperwork, and escaping from his grim existence by becoming a hero in his own elaborate dreams. His life and these dreams begin to merge together...his dreams become more realized as his life tears apart. Eventually, the government imprisons him, finding him guilty of none other than "wasting the Ministry's time and paper" after Sam embarks on a messy pursuit of the girl he sees in both his dreams and in real life -- who was unrightly wanted by the Ministry as a suspected terrorist. Still don't get it? You probably won't, not until you've seen the film multiple times. The structure of BRAZIL often uses peripheral devices: interviews heard in the background, lines of conversation running over action and posters seen on walls, to give the viewer cues as to what's going on in the film. It seems nearly impossible that a single viewing of BRAZIL could possibly supply the viewer with all of the information needed to fully digest what's happening in the film. BRAZIL is a film which rolls up many of the problems of the century into one big plot: industrialization, terrorism, government control and bureaucracy (from both capitalist and socialized countries), technology gone wrong, inept repair people, plastic surgery, love, and even modern filmmaking. Especially love. Gilliam has claimed that the film is about the fear of love: the consequences of the Sam Lowry character pursuing his dream girl are steep. However, if the film can be said to focus on a single topic, it would have to be described as the dehumanizing effect of technology and bureaucracy on today's society -- although the film is much more than that. In the world of BRAZIL, set "8:49 p.m., somewhere in the 20th century", fantasy is the only escape, and the happy ending is that of a man going insane. The film certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, shifting abruptly from comedy to despair, something Gilliam has described in interviews as cinematic rape. Gilliam approaches the style of the film with his trademark wit and stunning visuals, both honed during his years as the animator for _Monty Python's Flying Circus_ and during the production of his film _Time Bandits_. Words from Gilliam himself, part of an interview for The South Bank Show, filmed 6/29/91: "BRAZIL was a film that sat around for some years, I mean like 10 years I'd been sort of thinking about this thing. I mean on a very simple level it's just its just very cathartic for me. It's all about my own frustrations and my seeming inability to achieve what I wanted to achieve and my inability to affect a system that is clearly wrong. The fears of BRAZIL are not so much that the world is spinning out of control because of the system, because the system is us. What BRAZIL is really about is that the system isn't great leaders, great machinating people controlling it all. It's each person performing their job as one little cog in this thing and Sam chooses to stay a little cog and ultimately he pays the price for that. "Now on the other hand I also felt that there's the ideal that if we all do our bit the world will become better. Then there's the pessimistic side that says enough of this 'do our bit, ain't gonna make a blind bit of difference as we're all gunna, lemming like, go over the abyss'. And so then there was 'how do you escape from that world?' and Sam escapes by going insane. I actually started this film with that idea of 'can one make a film where the happy ending is a man going insane?'" Keep in mind, however, that Gilliam has been quoted as saying: "Because I dislike being quoted I lie almost constantly when talking about my work." =========================================================================== 2. Why were there problems with BRAZIL's release in America? In January of 1985, Terry Gilliam delivered his completed BRAZIL to Universal studios, on time and on budget. BRAZIL's complex and interweaving plot demands a lot of screen time in order to tie up all the loose ends -- and Gilliam was happy about the way the film worked in its 142 minute cut. Fox Pictures International had just signed the international agreement to the film and had accepted the 142 minute length without any sort of protest, so Gilliam expected Universal to accept it for distribution in America. Not so. Sidney Sheinberg, the president of Universal studios had taken an interest in BRAZIL -- Sheinberg "liked many parts of BRAZIL, and thought there were many moments of bravura filmmaking," but what Sheinberg saw lacking was commercial potential. The cure for this, in Sheinberg's eyes was a re-edit, one that took the various parts of BRAZIL that were commercially viable, namely Sam's pursuit of his dream girl, the stunning set design and Gilliam's off-beat style of humor, while removing those things that were not, namely the film's dark ending, the overtones of the dehumanizing effects of the government, and Michael Kamen's witty but dark orchestral score. This began a personal battle between Terry Gilliam and Sidney Sheinberg for control of the film. Sheinberg had forced Gilliam to sign a time provision which said that the running time of BRAZIL would have to be 132 minutes for Universal to accept it, and that even then Universal could follow up with any editing it deemed necessary. A rough cut of BRAZIL which ran at 132 minutes was created by Gilliam's editor Julian Doyle in order to fulfill the contractual obligation on time, and was sent to Universal pictures. Gilliam worked on a 132 minute edit, while Sheinberg himself began work on the studio's edit of the film. Scheinberg's editors Bill Gordean and Steve Lovejoy created an edit which cut out many of the dream sequences and essential threads in the plot of BRAZIL, while splicing in all elements of humor and all usable footage involving Sam Lowry and Jill Layton, the "dream girl". If that wasn't bad enough, Gordean and Lovejoy also lopped off the entire ending sequence which involved Sam Lowry's interrogation (and eventual loss of sanity) by his coworker Jack Lint. Instead, they chose to end the film where Sam finally consummates his relationship with Jill, and escapes with her to the country. Also suggested was the replacement of Kamen's symphonic score with one of rock music -- in order to "attract teens." Ultimately, this edit subverted the entire point of BRAZIL, making the movie a futuristic fairy tale about a man's quest for a dream woman, with a lot of action and a sub-plot about terrorism thrown in. Gilliam's original message of dehumanization and technology gone wrong was subverted by Scheinberg's edit, which sent the message that if you play the game and stay a good little cog in the machine, that one day you'll end up with your dreams come true. Scheinberg, upon seeing Gilliam's second 132 minute edit, decided to test the studio's version instead. Gilliam would not stand for this. Arnon Milchan, the producer of the film, began making public declarations on how the studio had taken away Gilliam's film because it was only a few minutes over contractual obligation, and began calling for critics to see the film in England, where it was available from Fox Pictures. Sid Sheinberg responded back by saying that no amount of critical praise could reverse the studio's decision about BRAZIL. Gilliam told Sheinberg that if he was going to release to studio's edit of BRAZIL that he wanted his name off of the credits, and then started an out and out publicity war. In Gilliam's own words: "It became a stalemate situation and Arnon Milchen, the producer said, "We've got to get lawyers in here and we've got to deal with this" and I said "Nah, can't get lawyers in. They've got all the lawyers in the world. They've got all the money. They don't have to release the film, it's not going to kill them. They can sit on it". and I said "we'll just have to approach it in a much more personalized way". So the first thing I did was to take a full page ad out in Variety which was this blank page except for this black border and in the middle of it it said: Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my film 'BRAZIL'? Terry Gilliam. and eventually what happened was the LA critics became very interested in the film and some had seen it and they set up a whole series of clandestine screenings of this film around Hollywood in peoples homes. It came time to vote at the end of the year for their films and they realized in their bylaws it didn't say that a film had to be released to be able to be voted upon and so they all voted upon whether BRAZIL could be voted upon and they agreed it could be and then it went out and it won Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Screenplay. [The awards were] announced the very night of the premiere of Out Of Africa in New York which was Universal's big film that year. All the big brass were there in their ties & DJ's and they were told that Out Of Africa had won nothing and BRAZIL, this film that they won't release has won all these awards. They had to release it and what was wonderful was I was getting all these phone calls from people saying "Oh well done, maybe now the flood gates will open we'll get films out, blahblahblah". Of course it didn't, just like BRAZIL, the system doesn't change, you just escape in your madness, that's all." - Terry Gilliam, The South Bank Show, 6/29/91 Universal finally opened Gilliam's 132 minute cut of BRAZIL at two theaters in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, 1985, later slowly bringing it across the country in a limited number of theatres with limited advertising. =========================================================================== 3. How many different versions of BRAZIL have been released? Some would argue that too many have. At this point in time, four different versions have been released on the laserdisc format alone (not counting variations in language or letterboxing), and there have been minor changes between the theatrical and video releases. They are as follows: (ET) The Fox European theatrical release (AT) The American 132 minute theatrical and video release (EV) The European/Japanese video/laserdisc release (FV) The "Final director's cut" of the film on the Criterion Collection laserdisc box set. (SE) The Sheinberg edit, also known as the "Love Conquers all" version. The following is a description of the differences between each version and the other versions. Which is the "real" BRAZIL? You be the judge. The European Theatrical Release (ET) contains many items not in the American Theatrical and Video release (AT). These are: The film opens with the time and location credits over a black background, not over the clouds present in the AT release. Buttle's daughter inquires as to how Father Christmas will come if they don't have a chimney. 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. In the restaurant, there is extra dialogue about how plastic surgery through an acid method is like a "delicate Rembrandt etching." After saying "Here's looking at you", there is an extended shot of Sam driving to Shangri-La towers. In the European Theatrical release, the Samurai sequence is one long sequence (with some additional footage), whereas in the American version it is divided into three separate sequences. Extra footage of Warren telling Sam to "get a new suit". There is a brief sequence in Jack Lint's office where Sam nearly enters the torture chamber, but is yelled at by Jack's secretary to use the "other door". Sam nearly bumps into Lime, wearing a cast, at Information Retrieval. Line is wearing the cast after being injured in a "desk tug of war" earlier in the film. There is a small amount of footage of Spoor answering the phone in Sam's apartment as saying "It's for you," then hanging up and indicating that they've requisitioned the apartment. An "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." A "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 film ends starkly in the torture chamber, with no clouds surrounding Sam as he hums Brazil. The European/Japan Video release (EV) adds the following scene not present in some theatrical prints of the European Theatrical release (ET), and that were never present in the American AT release: 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 pink bow tied around her naked body. She says to Sam: "Something for an executive?" and he unties her. The American Theatrical/Video Release (AT) adds a few things not found in the European Releases (ET & EV): There are clouds that open and close the film in the American Release. Some of the footage of these clouds was extraneous footage from _The Never Ending Story_. After watching Mrs. Lowry's first plastic surgery treatment, Sam exclaims "My god, it works!" The "Final director's cut" (FV) is the European/Japan Video release (EV), with a few changes: The film begins with clouds under the titles, like the American version, yet it ends with the original stark ending without clouds from the EV version. A cut while Mrs. Terrain is talking about the "delicate Rembrandt etchings" is corrected to be less obvious. There is extra footage before Spoor answers the phone in Sam's apartment. The Sheinberg Edit (the "Love Conquers All" version") makes a number of very major changes to all of the above versions: After the AT cloud intro and the Central Services ad, the movie shifts to a highly edited version of the restaurant sequence. After the explosion, the Brazil logo appears. Man in white labcoat, instead of seeing interview with Helpmann, sees an "Arrest and detainment" broadcast regarding Tuttle. Footage of eye-level view as the man in the white lab coat stands on the file cabinet. Shot of nameplate on Buttle's door before storm trooper showing Buttle and family in his apartment. Chimney comment, as per European version, shown right before "bust". "Psycho" strings missing from soundtrack during bust. One of the storm troopers issues a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" line after the receipts are signed. Music missing from "gunshot" scene. Extra shot of clerks watching gunfight while Kurtzmann calls Lowry. Kurtzman calls up a different part of the movie than in any other release (a man on a horse). Brief edit of clerks watching movie before Kurtzman leaves office. Kurtzman stutters before calling "Has anyone seen Sam Lowry?" An iris shot of Sam's head to indicate dream sequence before going into the sequence where he flies in the clouds. Cloud sequence is surrounded by a big, opaque border as though to say "This is a dream! Make no mistake!" Shots in soggy toast breakfast sequence rearranged. Music as Sam enters information retrieval different, with an emphasis on the harp line. Shots, again, are rearranged. No police officer showing nuns a 9mm machine gun. Christmas muzak is emphasized. Dialogue between Sam and Jack is more stunted and abrupt. Sam sees his "dream girl" on the video screen, and Jack stutters as he notices that something is wrong. Fade to commercial after sequence. Dialogue between Sam and Kurtzmann is truncated. Sam spills his tea more graphically on the paper indicating he's been promoted. Music and some foley work is missing from "mother's surgery" scene. The line "My god it works" present in the American version is changed to a more emphatic "My GOSH it works!" The edit skips over restaurant and dream sequences to Sam waking up late at night with the heating problem. Music cues from truck "chase" sequence play over "This has not been a recording" message. Sam hangs up the phone with an emphatic "Oh, damn!" Harry Tuttle theme plays over Harry Tuttle's entrance. Tuttle says to Lowry, "There aren't many like you left" after scaring off Spoor and Dowser. Instead of humming when asked why he's wanted, Tuttle gives the response "Setting a bad example. Ya know, little guys like us don't usually fight back. Fight back, Sam. We all gotta fight back." Fade to commercial after Tuttle slides down the rope. Ridiculous muzak-style music over second clerk pool scene. Kurtzmann shows much more apathy towards situation with Buttle's refund check. No Messerschmidt scene as Sam drives through the towers. In the sequence where he returns the check to Mrs. Buttle, Sam seems genuinely bewildered by Mrs. Buttle's reactions, and doesn't seem to know anything about Buttle's death. Instead of a grueling "What have you done with his body sequence," Mrs. Buttle tears up some newspaper. Cuts straight from Sam spotting Jill in the above flat to him exiting the Shangorilla Towers. Sam appears to say "Judas Priest!" as the Messerschmidt falls on the blocks. Film cuts directly to Sam calling up Jill's record. then shows Sam taking the transport home, skipping all dream sequences... as well as the singing telegram girl. Sam basically leaves work, takes the transport to his mother's apartment, and joins the party. Sam does not see a vision of Mrs. Buttle et al in mirror at party. Sam doesn't meet Shirley at the party, and it goes straight to the "false ears" joke. Film cuts straight from helping Mr. helpmann to the elevator in information retrieval. Time is compressed after Sam steps out of the elevator. There is additional "cute" footage between Jill and Sam as they drive in the truck. "Where are you taking me?" she asks. When Sam visits Jack Lint's office, Lint's daughter Holly is nowhere to be seen (this is footage from an earlier take of this scene, which was re-done). After Sam blows up the Ministry of Information, a piece of paper flutters down. It's got a wanted message for Sam on it. In the "something for an executive" scene, the camera is panned strategically to show less of Jill's backside. At the end of the film, Jill is seen walking into the house in the valley, and looks at Sam, who is dreaming. He dreams about Jill and himself soaring through the heavens. The film cuts straight to clouds over the credits. =========================================================================== 4. How do I get the version of BRAZIL I want on laserdisc? The laserdisc format has made available all versions of BRAZIL that have been released. On Wednesday, October 3rd, 1996 the Voyager company proudly released the Criterion BRAZIL to the laserdisc-viewing public. This set is essential viewing for all BRAZIL fans. In addition to a new digital transfer of the film, it contains the "Final director's cut" (FV) of the film, as well as the Sheinberg "Love Conquers All" edit. It also contains: * Video interviews with Gilliam, Charles McKeown, Michael Kamen, and most of the other players in the Brazil saga. * A documentary by Jack Mathews, author of _The Battle of Brazil_ * A documentary "What is Brazil"? * Production notebooks and stills. * Analysis of the various drafts of BRAZIL's scripts. * Storyboards of unfilmed dream sequences. * Commentary by Terry Gilliam throughout the film Brazil You can order the Criterion BRAZIL laserdisc off of Voyager's web site, www.voyagerco.com. Why was the Criterion BRAZIL set delayed for years as Universal withheld the rights to the film? The world may never know. In interviews, Gilliam has hinted that it was due to the success of his later film for Universal, 12 MONKEYS... but has been so vague as to not give any clear answers. BRAZIL is available in its American Theatrical Release (AT) format on laserdisc from MCA Home Video, #40171. This disc is no longer out of print, and is common in stores. A Japanese laserdisc pressing of BRAZIL contains a transfer of the European cut of BRAZIL from the European EV PAL masters on Warner Home Video Japan. This version was in Dolby Surround (opposed to MCA's matrixed surround), and was available in both letterbox and full-screen versions. This disc is currently out of print. Do not ask the author of the FAQ where you can obtain a copy of this disc, as he does not know any sources who can still obtain this disc. =========================================================================== 5. What is the title BRAZIL supposed to mean? Certainly BRAZIL is an enigmatic title for a movie that seems to have nothing to do with the country of Brazil. One of the drafts of the screenplay was entitled _The Ministry of Torture, or Brazil, or How I Learned to Live with the System -- So Far_, and Gilliam also considered calling his screenplay 1984 1/2. Many of the drafts appear to have simply been titled "The Ministry." In the book _The Battle of Brazil_, Gilliam explains where the inspiration stemmed from, while he was in Port Talbot, Wales: "Port Talbot is a steel town, where everything is covered with gray iron ore dust. Even the beach is completely littered with dust, its just black. The sun was setting, and it was quite beautiful. The contrast was extraordinary, I had this image of a guy sitting there on this dingy beach with a portable radio, tuning in these strange Latin escapist songs like 'Brazil.' The music transported him somehow and made his world less gray." Sid Sheinberg didn't like the title, and had the Universal staff submit suggestions for a new title. These suggestions included the titles: If Osmosis, Who Are You? Some Day Soon Vortex Day Dreams and Night Tripper What a Future! Litterbugs The Works Skylight City You Show Me Your Dream... Access Arresting Developments Nude Descending Bathroom Scale Lords of the Files Dreamscape The Staplegunners Progress Forever More The Right to Bear Arms Explanada Fortunata Is Not My Real Name All Too Soon Chaos Where Were We? Disconnected Parties Blank/Blank Erotic Shadow Time Maelstrom Forces of Darkness The Man in the Custom Tailored T-shirt Fold, Spindle, Mutilate Can't Anybody Here Play the Cymbals? Sign on High The Ball Bearing Electro Memory Circuit Buster This Escalator Doesn't Stop At Your Station Gnu Yak, Gnu Yak, and Other Bestial Places. =========================================================================== 6. How does BRAZIL fit in with Gilliam's other movies? In the promotion of the film THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, Terry Gilliam openly referred to that film as the third in his trilogy of films, which began with TIME BANDITS and continued with BRAZIL. Later, Gilliam has been quoted in saying that calling the three a trilogy was just him being "pretentious". Do the three form a trilogy? They certainly seem to: _The Battle of Brazil_ explains that Gilliam's trilogy is about the ages of man, and the subordination of magic to realism. TIME BANDITS was part one, about the fantasist as a child. BRAZIL was part two, the fantasist as a young man, and BARON MUNCHAUSEN closes the series with its story about an old man who, through the innocence and open mindedness of a small girl, regains his belief in magic. Both TIME BANDITS and BRAZIL have bleak endings, but BARON MUNCHAUSEN shows the final triumph of this sort of magic through fantasy, as Munchausen circumvents the reality of his death in his own tall tales, achieving immortality through his storytelling. Considering that Gilliam was on record calling BARON MUNCHAUSEN the third in the trilogy before production on MUNCHAUSEN began, it is definite that even if Gilliam was not thinking of making a trilogy as he wrote and filmed TIME BANDITS and BRAZIL, he certainly considered them that at the end, and made BARON MUNCHAUSEN with that in mind. Gilliam often compares himself with the protagonists in his films, and the main characters in TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL and MUNCHAUSEN can all be considered representations of Gilliam himself during various stages of his life. Both BRAZIL and MUNCHAUSEN's plots and themes echo the events surrounding the making of those films, so at the very least the films can be viewed as a loose cinematic interpretation of however Terry Gilliam was feeling at the stage in his life when he wrote those films. Neither of the later films, THE FISHER KING or 12 MONKEYS were written by Terry Gilliam, and while they continue with his common theme of merging fantasy with reality (and the difficulty in determining which of the two is more truthful), they cannot be considered the autobiographical statements that his previous three films appear to be. =========================================================================== 7. What are the lyrics to Brazil? Is a soundtrack available? Brazil... Where hearts were entertaining June We stood beneath an amber moon And softly murmured someday soon... We kissed... And clung together Then... Tomorrow was another day The morning found me miles away * With still a million things to say Now... When twilight dims the skies above ** Recalling thrills of our love There's one thing I'm certain of Return... I will... to old... BRAZIL. (NOTES: * In some versions, this line is "The morning found US miles away" ** In some versions, this line is "When twilight dims the STARS above") The soundtrack by Michael Kamen is available on compact disc, Milan 35636-2. The disc features music from the film as well as snippets of dialogue and the title track sung by Kate Bush. The recording is excellent, and the disc offers insightful liner notes written by Steven Smith, Terry Gilliam and Michael Kamen. Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack BRAZIL (Michael Kamen) CD: 1993 US (Milan 35636-2) 1:41 Central Services / The Office 2:10 Sam Lowry's 1st Dream / "Brazil" (vocal by Kate Bush) 0:42 Ducts 3:00 Waiting for Daddy / Sam Lowry's Wetter Dream "The Monoliths Erupt" 1:15 Truck Drive 1:34 The Restaurant (You've Got To Say the Number) 1:14 Mr. Helpmann 0:45 The Elevator 2:07 Jill Brazil / Power Station 1:03 The Party (Part 1) / Plastic Surgery 1:53 Ducting Dream 3:26 Brazil (Performed by Geoff Muldaur, from the Geoff and Maria Muldaur album _Pottery Pie_) 1:18 Days and Nights in Kyoto - The Party (Part 2) 1:46 The Morning After 1:03 Escape? 4:30 The Battle 1:50 Harry Tuttle - "A Man Consumed By Paperwork" 1:44 Mother's Funeral / Forces of Darkness 2:26 Escape ! No Escape ! 2:51 Bachianos Brazil Samba =========================================================================== 8. The sets are stunning. Where were they filmed? The sets in BRAZIL were designed to look like "the century was compacted into a single moment," the style being eclectic. In order to create this sort of mood, Gilliam's film was shot on-location at many locations in Europe. Sam's apartment building actually existed in France, at the Marne la Vallee, a huge apartment complex designed by Ricardo Bofil. The truck chase, with Sam and Jill outrunning the security pursuit vans as well as shots of Sam walking home from the transporter station were filmed there. The site of Marne la Vallee is now the site of EuroDisney. Dr. Jaffe's surgery room, where Ida Lowry receives her cosmetic treatment early in the film, was shot in Leighton's House, the home of Lord Leighton. Leighton was a Victorian artist and collector of moorish tiles. The clerk's pool where Sam works in the Records Department was shot in an abandoned grain mill in London's Dockland. The mill was sprayed with gray paint, and flour sifters were turned into benches. This same location was used for the corridors of the Information Retrieval department where Sam goes after being promoted. The giant holes in the ceiling are the bottoms of twelve-story-high grain silos. The restaurant where Sam, Ida, Mrs. Terrain and Shirley have lunch was shot in Mentmore Towers, part of the former Rothschild mansion in Buckinghamshire. It was the center for Transcendental Meditation at the time Gilliam was filming BRAZIL. Sam's mother's apartment was filmed in the Liberal Club in London, located next to old Scotland Yard. The Information Retrieval torture chamber where Sam is interrogated was shot in a cooling tower at a power station in South London. The stunt men who rescue Sam during his interrogation had to descend a distance of 170 feet to 9-inch wide metal spines 40 feet above the ground for Sam's escape scene. The Croydon power station was used for the setting of the basement of the Ministry of Information, as well as an exterior scene where Sam "arrests" Jill in her truck. =========================================================================== 9. What do all the signs say? Few of the propaganda signs were in the original script of BRAZIL. They can be credited to co-scriptwriter Charles McKeown, who played Sam's smarmy co-worker at Information Retrieval. Also, most every object in the film has a stencilled part number or Ministry of Information logo on it. In the Department Of Records: "The Truth Shall Make You Free" - on statue "Information Is The Key To Prosperity. A Ministry Of Information" - sign above security stall. "Help The Ministry Of Information Help You" - poster on wall "Be Safe: Be Suspicious" - sign on wall "Loose Talk Is Noose Talk" - poster on the wall of the computer room Kurtzmann's office: "Suspicion Breeds Confidence" - sign Ministry of Information logos are stamped on many of the small items in Kurtzmann's office, such as the teacup given to Lowry and the fishbowl. These are nearly impossible to see on video. Shangri La Towers: "Happiness: We're all in it together" - Billboard (This billboard is copied from a sign that appeared throughout the United States during the depression.) "Mellowfields. Top Security Holiday Camps. Luxury without fear. Fun without suspicion. Relax in a panic free atmosphere." - advert on wall above children playing. "Reality" - graffiti on wall "Shangorilla Towers" - Shangri-la tower's defaced sign. "DO NOT FOLD, SPINDLE, MUTILATE" - stencilled on concrete wall inside. Mr Lime's Office at Info. Retrieval: "Trust in haste, Regret at leisure" - poster on wall "Don't suspect a friend, report him" - poster on wall (also seen in both Lint and Kutzmann's offices) Jack's Office at Info. Retrieval: "Who can you trust?" - poster on wall Processing Plant: "Mind that parcel. Eagle eyes can save a life." - poster on wall "Power today. Pleasure tomorrow." - poster seen when the house gets lifted. Shopping Mall: "Consumers for Christ" - banner carried by band in the mall. "Utopia Railways" - ad in the street when Sam blows up the building. "Keep your city tidy" - sign on the trash can. =========================================================================== 10. What is Information Retrieval charging? A subplot that many viewers of BRAZIL seem to miss entirely is that of Information Retrieval charging. "Information Retrieval" is a euphemism for "interrogation" or "torture." The extent of Information Retrieval Charging is revealed in Deputy Minister Conrad Helpmann's interview, which is shown on the telescreen while a technician swipes at the beetle which determines the fate of the movie. The interviewer asks the Deputy Prime Minister about the economics of the terrorist situation, and the Deputy Prime Minister replies: "I understand this concern on behalf of the taxpayers. People want value for money. That's why we always insist on the principal of Information Retrieval charges. It's absolutely right and fair that those found guilty should pay for their periods of detention and the Information Retrieval procedures used in their interrogations." The check Lowry delivers to Mrs. Buttle is a check for the amount debited from the Buttle's charge account when Mr. Buttle was interrogated and killed (because of Information Retrieval's torturous methods) early in the film. The police officer says to Sam after he is strapped into the chair at the torture chamber "Don't fight it son, confess quickly. If you hold out too long, you could jeopardize your credit rating." Note that this is not merely a funny line; a scene present only in the ER (and presumably in the forthcoming laserdisc) has a MOI official arranging a way for Sam to pay his charges via installments. Inspiration for this subplot may have possibly stemmed from German history -- the Nazis were known to charge Jews for their forced passage to the concentration camps. Gilliam has mentioned that he discovered that South American countries were also charging for interrogation and torture, and the practice was also used during the Salem witch trials. =========================================================================== 11. What does the singing telegram girl sing? Mrs. Ida Lowry requests the pleasure of your companyyyy at her apartment tonight, from eight thirtyyyyy to midnight to celebrate the completion of her recent cosmetic surgeryyyy The guest of honor will be Mr. Conrad Helpmann, Dep. Under Minister of State for Public Informationnnn, R.S.V.P. by singing telegram! There's a reason for the singing telegram girl's rather odd dance during the last bit of the recital -- in the original script, she later asked if she could use Sam's bathroom. Gilliam considered "subtitling" the scene with this text in "telegram" style letters. Gilliam has said the he wishes he had actually done that. =========================================================================== 12. Miscellaneous Questions, Answers, and Observations. Q. What kind of car did Sam drive to deliver the refund check? A. It's a Messerschmidt. Gilliam obtained two from a collector's club in order to shoot the film, one of which was destroyed for the scene at Shangri-La Towers. Q. What does Jack Lint's little girl say to Sam after Jack leaves? A. "Put it on, big boy. I won't look at your willy." Holly, the little girl, is Gilliam's daughter Holly Gilliam. Q. Who is Sam's mother played by in the scene at Mrs. Terrain's funeral? A. Its Kim Greist, who plays Jill Layton. Gilliam shot footage with both Greist and Katherine Helmond playing the part, and decided to use the footage of Greist with Helmond's voice dubbed in. However, if you look closely, the last shot of Sam's mother _is_ Katherine Helmond. Q. Who is the rock man supposed to represent? A. Sam's boss at the Department of Records, Kurtzmann. Q. Who does Sam find when he lifts the faceplate of the Samurai? A. Himself, which lends itself to the Quixotic nature of Sam's quest. The samurai is a huge, monolithic, powerful machine, and is assumed to represent technology -- and Sam finds his own participation in the machinations of this technologically based society to be a hindrance to his own self. Gilliam hinted, during a recent Q & A session on America Online, that the Samurai may simply be a bad pun. The word samurai, divided into syllables, sounds like the phrase "Sam or I"... and later, Gilliam mentioned that it could mean, "Sam, you are I". Q. Why the hideous masks, like the one Jack Lint wears for the interrogation? A. Gilliam's mother once sent him a mask like that, and it haunted him ever since. Gilliam intended the effect of combining the masks and the decaying bodies of the Forces of Darkness (the small, troll-like creatures which Sam sees in his dreams) to be an intermingling of the beginning and ends of life. Q. Does Gilliam cameo in the film? A. Gilliam himself appears as one of the lurkers in Shangri-La towers, the one belching smoke as he runs into Sam. The lurkers were put in the script to get the idea across that people were being arbitrarily picked out for surveillance. Q. How is the song "Brazil" used in the movie? A. As well as frequently occurring as a theme in the orchestral soundtrack, the song Brazil is hummed by Tuttle as he puts the panel back inside Sam's apartment, and by Sam as he folds up Mrs. Buttle's check and puts it in the pneumatic delivery tube. A few notes of the song are played by the keypad as Sam punches in "EREIAMJH" in Mr. Helpmann's lift. Q. Are there any references to other films in BRAZIL? A. Past the obvious reference to Casablanca, there are two scenes which are familiar to film buffs. The first is the opening dolly shot of the clerk's pool at the Department of Records, intended as homage to Stanley Kubrick, who used a similar dolly shot in _Paths of Glory_. An even more striking similarity is during the scene where Lowry and Tuttle escape from Information Retrieval. The actions of the soldiers in this scene, marching mechanically in time and lowering their rifles, mirrors shot-for-shot a famous scene in BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN. The scene in the Russian classic takes place on the steps of Odessa, portraying a glimpse of the Russian revolution. In POTEMKIN, we have a baby carriage rolling down the stairs in the midst of battle, while in BRAZIL, we have a floor polisher going down the stairs -- the operator, like the mother in POTEMKIN, is shot in a similar fashion This famous scene is also alluded to in THE UNTOUCHABLES, during the famous train station stand-off, and was re-drawn for _Stick Figure Theatre_ on MTV's _Liquid Television_. Zbigniew Rybczynski's short film STEPS is all about what happens when modern day tourists get to walk around in this famous film sequence. Many other films have used referenced POTEMKIN, as well. Q. Why does Mrs. Terrain disintegrate over the course of the film? A. Mrs Terrain reveals in the restaurant bombing sequence that she is seeing Mr. Chapman for cosmetic surgery, also known as "the acid man". From the gelatinous, bony mess found in her coffin, we can assume the acid treatment was ultimately unsuccessful. Gilliam, on the Criterion collection set in his commentary, mentions that his father had used an "acid man" to treat a growth on his ear... and that the acid ate through his father's entire ear! Q. Are any of the character's names significant? A. Mr Kurtzmann (German for `short man') stands for small in stature and success. Named after the editor of _Help_ (Harvey Kurtzman), a magazine that Gilliam worked for in the mid-60s. It was at a photo shoot for this magazine that Gilliam met John Cleese, who would later invite him to join the Monty Python team. Mr Warrenn works in a rabbit-warren style place: a maze of corridors. Dr. Chapman, "the acid man" responsible for Mrs. Terrain's deteriorating condition, may be an allusion to fellow Pythoner Graham Chapman, who studied as a doctor. Q. What is the tool that Jack Lint uses during Sam's interrogation? A. It is a device used to perform a frontal lobotomy. It is inserted through the nose and then pushed up to sever the frontal lobe. It can be assumed through the context of the film that Sam has been lobotomized by the end of the film. Q. What is the gift Sam keeps getting and giving? A. An executive decision maker, a novelty gift in the Spencer's Gifts vain: it has a plunger that can fall to one side of a divider, landing on "YES" or "NO". The toy is of no value in the film...commentary on the knee-jerk giving of useless gifts at Christmastime, and the commercialization of the holiday. The gift in real life was more expensive...it cost 2000 dollars to design and make for the film. Q. What does "'ere I am, J.H." mean? A. It's obviously an anagram of "Jeremiah". However, the phrase is slightly puzzling: Jeremiah (the anagram of "EREIAMJH") was Sam Lowry's late father, so we can assume his initials were J.L. Helpmann's initials, seen earlier in the tag on a present, are G.H. (for Gene Helpmann). So, who's J.H.? Q. How were the flying sequences filmed? A. "We used either close ups of Jonathan....and the rest of the shots were done on this model. This thing was so good we were able to come in very close on it and still fool the camera. This whole thing was connected by wires to a battery that was then run on a huge track. To make it look like the size of a human being you've gotta slow the thing down so we shot it at 4 or 5 times normal speed and the operator trying to follow this thing was in a terrible state. We'd set this whole thing up and the clouds would get going and we'd shout "Action!" and it would go Wham! and then this thing would fly through the air "Berrrrrap!" and that was it and it would take us another hour to set it up again. By the end of the day you wouldn't know what you'd achieved, but come the next morning, you saw the rushes and the film slowed down to the right speed...it's fantastic, you saw this incredibly graceful, soaring, sweeping figure. That's what we ended up with on film." - Terry Gilliam, The South Bank Show, 6/29/91 Additional information: Two of Lowry's "rescuers" are wearing comic masks -- one wearing a Father Christmas mask, the other Pluto. There are references to Egyptology in Ida Lowry's decor, and the brooch she wears, the beetle, is the Egyptian symbol for eternal life. The "shoe hat" she wears is based on an actual design from the 30's. Ducts are pervasive throughout the film. These symbolize both the umbilical relationship of the people to their centralized government and the loss of aesthetics in our cities. When Sam fights with Jill to get her parcel off her (in the lingerie dept.) his head gets pressed against a mirror. For a brief second before the next shot, the film gets reversed (or flipped from left to right). Spiro loses his French accent after the bomb goes off in the restaurant. This funny dialogue is not heard in the American Theatrical/Video release. Gilliam tested more than a half-dozen actresses to play the part of Jill, interviewing or testing Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Rae Dawn Chong, Joanna Pakula, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly McGillis, Ellen Barkin, and even considering Madonna. Gilliam's personal favorite was Ellen Barkin. There was a reference to BRAZIL on Simpsons episode [1F07]: The Last Temptation of Homer, originally aired on December 9th, 1993. Department of labor workers slide in from the top of the screen on wires in a manner very similar to Sam's rescue scene in the torture chamber. The Brazilian soccer team is mentioned soon afterward. In the same episode, Lisa steps out of a clam shell a la BARON MUNCHAUSEN. Several readers recall seeing a Federal Express ad that parodied BRAZIL, namely the scenes with Mr. Warrenn in Information Retrieval. Several readers recall seeing a version of the Sheinberg "Love Conquers All" edit that contained a clip of Casablanca, and the line "You look like you've seen a ghost, Sam," neither of which are present on the Criterion disc. Many posters to rec.arts.movies.* and alt.cult-movies have intimated that BRAZIL is a modern-day crucifixtion story. We see stigmata on Sam Lowry's hand after his lobotomy at the end of the movie. =========================================================================== 13. Where can I get more information about BRAZIL? The Internet Movie Database offers very comprehensive information about films, and has a wonderful section on BRAZIL. Please check it out at http://www.imdb.com/. Now out of print, Jack Mathew's fine hardcover _The Battle of Brazil_, published by Crown Publishing, New York, 1987 ISBN 0-517-56538-2, is a great source of information about the film and the ensuing studio battles. Much of the information in this FAQ was gleaned from _The Battle of Brazil_. Please, please don't ask me where to find _The Battle of Brazil_ -- typically, it's found by sheer luck in used book stores. ========================================================================== 14. Notable Quotes Arresting Officer: "This is your receipt for your husband...and this is my receipt for your receipt." Bill, Department of Works: "Mistakes? We don't make mistakes." Charlie, Department of Works: "Bloody typical, they've gone back to metric without telling us." Shirley: "Salt?" "Pepper?" "Oh, it's...it's all right. I don't like you either." Tuttle: "...well, that's a pipe of a different color." "Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn't even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6...Bloody paperwork." "My good friends call me Harry." "Listen, kid, we're all in it together." Kurtzmann: "It's been confusion from the word go!" Mrs. Buttle: "What have you done with his body?" Jack: "Until this whole thing blows over, just stay away from me." "It's not my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file!" Sam: "Yes...No...I don't know. I don't know what I want." "Mr. Helpmann, I'm keen to get into Information Retrieval. Mr. Helpmann, I'm dying to get at this woman... no, no, no." "Yes, I always used to wonder if she wore falsies. False ears..." "Sorry, I'm a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn't follow the correct procedures?" "I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about following up and eradicating any error. If you have any complaints which you'd like to make, I'd be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms." Helpmann: Helpmann uses a variety of sporting references, including: "Bad sportsmanship. A ruthless minority of people seem to have forgotten good old-fashioned virtues. They just can't stand seeing the other fellow win. If these people would just play the game..." "We're fielding all their strokes, running a lot of them out, and pretty consistently knocking them for six. I'd say they're nearly out of the game." "Jill? Yes...Sam I think I ought to tell you. I'm afraid she's upped stumps and retired to the pavillion. Thrown in the towel." "All I can say is don't fall at the last fence. The finishing post's in sight. See you in the paddock...keep your eye on the ball." Warren: "An empty desk is an efficient desk!" Dr. Lewis Jaffe: "Just me and my little knife! Snip snip -- slice slice... can you believe it?" "Faces are a doddle compared to tits and ass. No hairline." Spoor: "Where'd you get this from, eh? Out yer nostril?" "All you've got to do is blow your nose and it's fixed, in't it?" Lime: "Computers are my forte!" Jill: "Care for a little necrophilia?. . .Hmmm?" =========================================================================== NOTES Copious thanks to all involved in writing this thing, including: Murray Chapman, Jon Drukman, Chuck Falzone, John Fletcher, Hyunsuk Seung and others too numerous to mention. Thanks also go to Terry Gilliam for making a wonderful film that is still as fascinating in 1996 as it was in 1986, and the people at Voyager for persevering to release a proper laserdisc of BRAZIL in America. I'm active in rec.arts.movies.* and alt.cult-movies, but my clunky old newsreader probably won't catch your post. Please E-mail all comments, questions, corrections & suggestions directly to me at the address esch@fische.com. Dave Cowen (esch@fische.com) Eschatfische. ----------------------------------- http://www.fische.com/