Bureaucracy and Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL Essay
Bureaucracy and Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL
For what it is, the world in which Terry Gilliam’s film BRAZIL sets itself is an incredibly believable world despite its incredulous nature. To this regard, I have to give a great deal of credit to writer-director Terry Gilliam for going to the lengths that he does in order to make the world believable. Instead of the common conventions of throwing out a number of 1984 or ROAD WARRIOR derivative clichés that are common in films that present a post-apocalyptic totalitarian future, Gilliam seeks to make BRAZIL’S world believable. The way in which Gilliam does this is by centering the film squarely on the shoulders of its characters and not falling onto action-adventure conventions that most science fiction films of its nature will do.
However, there is a somewhat disjointed essence to the characters as they relate to the furthering of the plot of the film. For example, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on over the top satire that is seemingly out of place with the more brutally violent scenes of revolutionary terrorism and state repression. While BRAZIL is a unique film, the confusing nature of bordering between humor and nightmare becomes somewhat confusing in spots. That is why it is not surprise the film’s box office receipts were disappointing.
In the bizarre world of Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL, the totalitarian and stifling bureaucracy has now achieved total domination and a ruling class has created a state controlled machine that sees the populace as a nuisance that must be stifled in order to leave the privileged elite alone so they can live their dominant lives in peace. Of course, not every goes along with this bizarre program and a resistance movement has been mobilized to overthrow the regime. Of course, in practicality, this is a pure pipedream) Therein is the result of the bureaucracy: complacency and resistance.
Again, much of the world the film depicts is one of absurd regimentation that is ripe for satire. The purpose of this regimentation is to create an orderly structure to the lives in which the people in the society are supposed to perform. In typical governmental bureaucratic disaster, the attempt to impose such state sponsored order leads to rebellion and ultimately undoes the order in the society to a significant degree. The useless presence of posters spewing nonsense of support for the state do very little to reverse the problem although, quite honestly, the bureaucracy that is present in the society has lulled the bulk of the populace into a virtual sleepwalking life, many of them have become oblivious to the plight they find themselves in, namely the fact that whatever capitalist system that existed prior to the rise of the totalitarian regime has long since been snuffed out. This is seen heavily in the film’s attempts to replicate the “protestant/rational capitalist attitude” in which people have become humbled and willing to accept their lot in life and not seek more. Why fight it when resistance is useless? Then again, if the purpose of the posters is to re-enforce timidity, then they are not so much banal as they are effective, just merely appearing to be banal. (1984 doublespeak?)