In this new series of articles, our writers are watching classic films for the first time. Here we have Robert catching up on Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

Earlier this year, bizarro director and ex-Monty Python member Terry Gilliam gave an extremely uncomfortable interview with The Independent, in which he lamented that white men were “blamed for everything that is wrong with the world” and announced that he was now “a black lesbian in transition.” It really is a shame that Gilliam seems so set on tanking his reputation since he has one of the most diverse back catalogues of any director, with films like 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen all characterised by a mischievous and wholly original taste for the unconventional.

Then we have Brazil, Gilliam’s epic magnum opus of madcap production design, inky black humour, and a strong dose of English drollery. Taking clear influences from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Gilliam’s takedown of meaningless bureaucracy is a sprawling delight packed with majestic dream sequences and macabre images, all framed within the director’s trademark fish-eye style. 

It would of course be wrong not to squeeze in a reference to our current global situation (what would any article be right now without a Covid shoutout?), but it really is a relief to be whisked away into Brazil’s wild, untamed world right now. Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, and Michael Palin all deliver wonderfully animated performances, Pryce looking almost unrecognisable as the fresh-faced Sam Lowry, a man stuck in a dead-end job on a quest to track down the woman (Kim Greist) who keeps appearing in his dreams.

A morbidly humourous spin on dystopian tales of misery and decay, Brazil feels like the perfect combination of Gilliam’s unhinged taste for the fantastical and the freakish. With an art style that puts Blade Runner to shame and more twists and turns than a Gilliam interview, Brazil is a masterwork that’s reputation is, thankfully, untouchable. 


Available to watch on: Amazon Prime


CAST: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins

DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam

WRITERS: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown

SYNOPSIS: A government worker accused of having no ambition in life pursues a mysterious woman who starts appearing in his dreams.