Brazil has always been Terry Gilliam’s most lauded film, and is certainly the one that cemented his distinctive visual style. But it has never especially been a favorite of mine. I was probably a bit too young when I watched it for the first time, and was put off by it lack of the charm and sense of wonder that made me love Time Bandits so much when I was a kid.
Watching Brazil again after many years, I realize what an achievement this was for Gilliam. In an era of big-budget movies with a lot of going on up on the screen but not much conceptual content, like the Indiana Jones films, Gilliam managed to make a film with a comparatively modest budget which looked much more expensive then it probably actually cost, and full of lots of interesting ideas. In fact, it may have a few too many ideas. Whether love can survive in an age devoted to information, and if things in the sensual realms such as food can still be enjoyed when it is reduced to a science are interesting questions, but the list goes on and on, and it seems like they were trying to fit in anything they could in a futuristic setting. I think only a handful of films warrant going over the 90 to 100 minute range, and as much as I love Gilliam, I don’t think this really qualifies, and this could have probably done all that it does in 100 minutes rather than 137.
Still, the strong visual style ensure that you always have something breathtaking to look at during those 137 minutes. Brazil really raised the bar for what cinema outside the mainstream could do in the ‘80s, and was an obvious influence on later films such as Kafka.