By Julia Melim
If you have seen Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece “Brazil” from 1985 you would know there isn’t much in it that portrays our beautiful country, however it points to the idea that once you get to Brazil every problem will be solved – as the idea that permeates our collective unconscious. Many have dreamed of escaping to Brazil, finding a better life in Brazil, or lying on the beach for eternity and forgetting all about their problems such as the case of the character Sam Lowry played by the genius Jonathan Pryce (who deserves credit for painting an amazing picture of a disturbed character trying to go against the system).
Even though Gilliam made this film in 1985, such as any genius ahead of his time, he foresees where we would be heading, and makes a movie that is as relevant in 1985 as it is in 2013. When the film starts you could mistake the first scene for any of this year’s broadcast. He talks about terrorist attacks, bombings, and controlling the citizens by forcing them to fill out endless forms in order to solve their life-threatening problems, which is not far from our reality today. In Gilliam’s fantastic world, anyone who doesn’t get a stamp or a receipt is almost automatically thrown in jail and considered a terrorist.
It’s incredible how he portrays the indifference of the upper classes, as in the dinner scene where the characters continue having their futile conversations after the restaurant has been bombed and only their table wasn’t affected while bleeding victims beg for their lives and they continue to have tea. Compared to a reality of death and oppression Brazil seems like a dream, at least that’s the premise created by Gilliam stated all throughout the film by the song “Aquarela do Brasil” being hummed, added to the soundtrack and finally sang by the main character in his last few moments on screen, where a full Brazilian orchestra accompanies him.
Brazil’s economy is complicated right now, but it’s not hard to imagine how much life could be better if you lived in Brazil. Ironically enough, many Brazilians still come to the US to fulfill their lifelong dream. Also, another dramatic irony in the arts is that most Brazilians portray Brazil as a place you would want to escape with all the violence in the favelas, police bribes, and political corruption. So which Brazil is it? Is it paradise or not?
Human beings have a necessity to dream, to escape their reality and we create all sorts of fantasies in order to make sense of our ordinary lives. No matter where you are, you will always think there is a perfect oasis elsewhere – the film is not about going to Brazil, it’s about daydreaming. For those who don’t believe in progress they’d rather create a perfect dream with yearly vacations and pretend there’s a world you could look forward to instead of looking for a change and standing up for your ideals.
For the character Sam Lowry rebelling against the state means they find him guilty and he loses everything he worked for, which at that point is meaningless to him. That’s what Gilliam discusses in his film, Sam Lowry says “I don’t know what I want,” and in order to escape his boring reality before being tortured to death he finds love, passion and fantasy. In his very last moments he stands up for himself, sounds like any of us when life begins to escape us.
* Julia Melim is a Brazilian actress, TV host/reporter and writer. She lives between Rio, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. She is a long-time Soul Brasil contributor writer – www.juliamelim.com