Monday, September 17, 2007

BRAZIL, a prophetic 1985 film - in which a bad mother strikes again

[first posted on my page earlier today]

Monty Python member Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil is uncanny in its prediction of the present. It depicts a totalitarian society in which the incredibly invasive Bureau of Information Retrieval "never makes mistakes" in pursuing terrorist suspects - or just those "selected for questioning" - who the movie shows us are usually if not always citizens and usually if not always die or otherwise disappear, regardless of their guilt or even their true identities. The main character, Sam Lowry, initially seems to be more aware of the problems inherent in his world than later, as he begins to haplessly destroy his own life and the lives of those around him in selfish pursuit of Jill, who resembles the woman of his idealistic dreams - literally. In that he is clearly influenced by the classic movies that hypnotize most of the members of this society into compliance with their horrific government.

Meanwhile, his widowed mother, Ida, repeatedly tries to force her son into a relationship with her friend's ungainly daughter and into a promotion to Information Retrieval, neither of which he wants. She accomplishes the latter by "pulling strings," she says, but her power clearly comes to a large extent from her sexuality, even though her high-ranking husband is dead. She basically admits to sleeping around with at least one high-level government official, a man at least as young as her son, and her plastic surgeon, who ultimately makes her look so young that her son sees Jill's face instead of Ida's - and that's right after he makes love with Jill in his mother's bed (while she's wearing a blond wig that makes her look more like the damsel in distress of his dreams). "Don't call me that," Ida says, as Sam cries repeatedly, "Mother! Mother!" The obsession of, it seems, all matronly women in this society with plastic surgery and lingerie are meant to further illustrate the failures of this fictional world - but the trope that's used to do it, the Monster Mother (controlling, powerful, sexual, and self-absorbed) is nothing new. And the result - the destruction of her son and everyone connected with him - is common as well.

[Another interesting sidenote: Sam's boss at the beginning of the movie is named Kurtzmann. I was instantly reminded of Kurtz from Heart of Darkness - but I also feel as though I've encountered another character named after Kurtz in my movie-watching of the past couple of years. Anyone able to help me with that?]

The film, though reminiscent of other futuristic cautionary tales, such as Blade Runner, only partially succeeds, due, I suspect, at least to some extent to its perplexing inconsistencies in characterization. Those may be due to Gilliam's Monty Python roots: He sacrifices consistency for humor, but in consequence the plot suffers. Still, its prophetic qualities are fascinating. Of course, it was purportedly inspired by George Orwell's 1984, so that shouldn't be surprising either.

My source for some of these details was Wikipedia.

No comments: