Brazil: Terry Gilliamís Troubled Masterpiece

        Terry Gilliam's 1985 Brazil is one of the most underappreciated films ever made. The film is so underrated in fact that the only people who take up for the damn thing are movie critics! I never understood how Gilliam made such an epic piece of surrealism and sarcasm during a period of time when neither one was given much gratitude. Brazil is disorienting but are not all enticing things a mystery? Is that not the hook?

        This film offers such beautiful camera movements and sets that could only be described as extraordinary. Gilliam also pays homage to Fellini with magnificent dream sequences that are both expletive and cryptic. Those scenes, paralleled with Brazil's foreign world, help the viewer to become more oriented with the obscene surroundings the characters consider reality. Though the story seems a bit complicated it is nothing more than a farcical look at fate and a wagging finger at our governmental institutions.

        The most dramatic part of Brazil, however, is not at all in the film. It was the controversy surrounding the film's final cut. Executive producers felt the film was too dark and would not be lucrative for major release. They told Gilliam to change his film or else it would never be seen in a theater, he refused; and they seized his movie. The studio hired a team of editors to re-cut Brazil to make it have a happier ending, and the result was a piece of garbage. The final cut was viewed by many west-coast film critics, and they banded together and responded positively to Gilliam's final cut (only time in history) to help raise awareness of what was happening to the film.

        Both versions, along with a documentary explaining the whole event, can now be purchased on Criterion Collection in a three-disc set. It is an excellent buy for anyone who would like to better understand the goings on of a film in pre-production as well as the dark side of studio retribution.

Ben Huffman

Table of Contents