Note from archiver<at>cs.uu.nl:
This page is part of a big collection
of Usenet postings, archived here for your convenience.
For matters concerning the content of this page,
please contact its author(s); use the
source, if all else fails.
For matters concerning the archive as a whole, please refer to the
or contact the archiver.
Subject: BRAZIL (Movie, 1985) Frequently Asked Questions v1.3
This article was archived around: 2 Oct 1996 23:06:27 GMT
Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright 1996 David S. Cowen
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,
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
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/
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,
"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
"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'?
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
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
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...
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
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
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
* 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
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
"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?
Where hearts were entertaining June
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured someday soon...
And clung together
Tomorrow was another day
The morning found me miles away *
With still a million things to say
When twilight dims the skies above **
Recalling thrills of our love
There's one thing I'm certain of
(NOTES: * In some versions, this line is "The morning found US miles away"
** In some versions, this line is "When twilight dims the STARS
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)
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
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
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
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
"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
"Mind that parcel. Eagle eyes can save a life." - poster on wall
"Power today. Pleasure tomorrow." - poster seen when the house gets lifted.
"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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
14. Notable Quotes
"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."
"Oh, it's...it's all right. I don't like you either."
"...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
"My good friends call me Harry."
"Listen, kid, we're all in it together."
"It's been confusion from the word go!"
"What have you done with his body?"
"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
"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 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
"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
"An empty desk is an efficient desk!"
Dr. Lewis Jaffe:
"Just me and my little knife! Snip snip -- slice slice... can you
"Faces are a doddle compared to tits and ass. No hairline."
"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?"
"Computers are my forte!"
"Care for a little necrophilia?. . .Hmmm?"
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
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
Dave Cowen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eschatfische. ----------------------------------- http://www.fische.com/