As we open door 23 of The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) films it’s definitely time to get in the party mood and what better film to emphasise that spirit than 1985’s Brazil?
Conjuring up images of carnivals, samba and beaches, Brazil is…erm…nothing to do with any of that.
Described by star Jonathan Pryce as “half a dream and half a nightmare”, it’s definitely not about the eighth largest economy in the world.
It is, instead, a very British film, albeit a strange dystopian version of Britishness.
It is also a very ‘Terry Gilliam’ film.
It’s 1984, but with a somewhat less efficient, more bureaucratic regime than Orwell’s authoritarian ‘Ingsoc’.
It’s satirical, nonsensical and madly brilliant.
There’s a strong cast including Robert DeNiro, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson and Peter Vaughan. However it’s Pryce who takes the leading role and it’s hard to imagine how anyone else could. Understated, subtle and sincere in the face of the absurd, Pryce’s ‘Sam Lowry’ is an everyman who dreams of escaping a bureaucratic world that seems excessively preoccupied with ducts.
It’s not easy to summarise exactly what Brazil is ‘about’ – that DeNiro’s character is a maverick swashbuckling ‘heating engineer’ probably tells you all you need know about quite how strange a world it is that Gilliam has constructed.
Brazil is, almost certainly, not for everyone.
But if you enjoy a touch of the surreal with a satirical nod to the ridiculousness of societal bureaucracy and commercialism then it could well be for you.
Score For Christmasishness.
It’s certainly not a ‘traditional’ Christmas film, but there’s no denying that the movie does take place during the festive season. There are Christmas decorations everywhere and depictions of Santa Claus are a regular occurence – one of my favourite bits of the movie is when Father Christmas asks a little girl what she would like for Christmas and she replies “my own credit card.” It’s a throwaway moment that neatly encapsulates the satire.
Few films capture the cynical crass commercialism of the modern world quite as well as Brazil, and it’s probably no coincidence that Gilliam opted for a festive setting to drive the message home.
Definitely a Christmas(ish) film in my book.