Brazil (1985)

Brazil (1985), directed by Terry Gilliam.

I saw this in the theater and a few times on home video thereafter, but my memory was unreliable. I recalled the Orwellian plot and oppressive tone, but had forgotten Gilliam's characteristic razzle-dazzle, the light and color and flood of absurd bits of humor and visual jokes, usually with a dark point, as when all the hatted men sit in the railcar while a one-legged woman is forced to stand.

It is a dark, bitter satire on dehumanizing modernity set in an alternative post-WW2 Britain (judging by the clothes and ugly utilitarian appliances). Where efficiency, automation and bureaucracy work they are brutalizing, but mostly they just don't work.

Unusually, we get to see behind the masks of the faceless men and the stormtroopers to discover... they are just ordinary folks, pleasant or malicious as may be.

But there's more: one of the dreadful realizations of maturity is that yes, you really can get used to almost anything. Think about that. Stuff you swore you would never tolerate when young and passionate you find yourself accepting and not even questioning when you are older.

Gilliam's genius is showing how it works: the cozy little comforts people stock their cubicles with, the fantasy worlds of old movies and advertisements, the secret belief that "I'm not one of them, a cog, I'm an individual and a free spirit!"

Our hero dreams of heroically rescuing his dream girl. He's had it and tries to break out, but as a free spirit he's a disaster, leaving ruin in his path. We hear gunfire after they put the bag over his head and I fear that was the end for Jill.

If you haven't seen it and are wondering if this is a comedy: yes, and scary and depressing as hell.

Assorted thoughts:

Available on Blu-ray.