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A Review of the Visionary Movie “Brazil”


The Story-Telling, Game Theorist, Troubleshooter, and Common Sense Problem-Solver


Helping people to create better lives through efficiency, effectiveness, precision, self-awareness, Eastern Wisdom and game-based strategies


Q. I heard that you are writing a book about life-changing and transformational movies. Tell me more about this?

A. The name of the book is “1001 Movies that will Change your life. The title says it all.

Here is an entry from the book and the trailer from the film Brazil:



Brazil (1985)

Genre: British-American dystopian, science  fiction satire

Director: Terry Gilliam

  • Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist
  • Plot: Sam Lowry is a low-level government employee in an incredibly incompetent dystopian society. Lowry frequently daydreams of saving a damsel in distress. When a fly gets jammed in a printer and results in the incarceration and accidental death during interrogation of innocent cobbler Archibald Buttle – instead of renegade air conditioningspecialist and suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle – Sam is assigned the task of rectifying the error. Visiting Buttle’s widow, Sam encounters their neighbour Jill Layton, and is astonished to see that she resembles the woman from his recurring dreams. Jill is trying to help Mrs. Buttle determine what happened to her husband, but her efforts are obstructed by bureaucracy. Unknown to her, she is now considered a terrorist accomplice of Tuttle for attempting to report the mistake of Buttle’s arrest. Sam approaches Jill, but she avoids giving him full details, worried the government will track her down.
  • During this time, Sam comes in contact with Tuttle, who once worked for Central Services but left due to his dislike of the tedious and repetitive paperwork. Tuttle helps Sam deal with two Central Services workers, Spoor and Dowser, who return to demolish Sam’s ducts and seize his apartment under the guise of fixing the air conditioning. Sam discovers that the only way to learn about Jill is to get transferred to Information Retrieval, where he can access her classified records. He had previously turned down a promotion arranged by his mother, Ida, who is obsessed with the rejuvenating plastic surgery of cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jaffe. Sam retracts his refusal by speaking with Deputy Minister Mr. Helpmann at a party hosted by Ida. Obtaining Jill’s records, Sam tracks her down before she can be arrested, then falsifies the records to fake her death, allowing her to escape pursuit. The two share a romantic night together, but are soon apprehended by the government at gunpoint. Charged with treason for abusing his new position, Sam is restrained to a chair in a large, empty cylindrical room, to be tortured by his old friend, Jack Lint. Sam learns that Jill was killed while resisting arrest.
  • When Jack is about to start the torturing, Tuttle and other members of the resistance break into the Ministry, shooting Jack, rescuing Sam, and blowing up the Ministry building. Sam and Tuttle flee together, but Tuttle disappears amid a mass of scraps of paperwork from the destroyed building. Sam stumbles into the funeral for Ida’s friend, who died following excessive cosmetic surgery; finding Ida resembling Jill and being fawned over by young men, Sam falls into the open casket and through a black void. He lands in a street from his daydreams, and attempts to escape police and monsters by climbing a pile of flex-ducts. Opening a door, he passes through it and is surprised to find himself in a trailer driven by Jill. The two leave the city together. However, this “happy ending” is a delusion: he is still strapped to the chair. Realising that Sam has descended into blissful insanity, Jack and Mr. Helpmann declare him a lost cause and leave the room. Sam remains in the chair, smiling and humming “Aquarela do Brasil“.

Running time: 142 Minutes

Language: English

Color: Color

Personal Comments:  The film feels like it was written during a collaboration between the Marx Bros., Fire Sign Theater, Monty Python and George Orwell. Terry Gilliam who is the director and co-screenwriter was a member of Monty Python’s Traveling Circus a popular British surreal sketch comedy group pulled out every trick in his very large hat of tricks. Though he has done many edgy films many consider this his masterpiece. Brazil‘s bureaucratic, totalitarian government is reminiscent of the government depicted in George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except that it has a buffoonish, slapstick quality and lacks a Big Brother figure.

I’ve seen it over 50 times and with each watching I always notice another phrase, or symbol that I missed. My favorite line “Here is the receipt for your husband, and here is the receipt for that receipt”… or something like that.


If you enjoyed this film you may also enjoy these other films:

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

The Matrix

Minority Report

Dr. Strangelove

V for Vendetta”


Total Recall


Modern Times



Soylent Green

Children of Men

A Clockwork Orange

Blade Runner

Dark City

Handmaid’s Tale


For a more in-depth exploration of these ideas and to financially support my work through donations go to www.patreon.com/askLewis



Lewis Harrison is a practical philosopher, mentor, and peak performance coach. He is a former member of the National Board of Review for Motion Pictures.

He teaches workshops and seminars on Eastern Wisdom, Zen and Taoist Thought, Applied Game Theory, and Personal Growth

To learn about how to sponsor a seminar with Lewis email him at LewisCoaches@gmail.com


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