Mrs Terrain: Really, Sam! Why can’t you do something about these terrorists?
Sam Lowry: It’s my lunch hour. Besides, it’s not my department.
From: Brazil (1985) Universal Studios/20th Century Fox
I don’t know about you, but I find this ridiculously, hysterically funny. In a depressing sort of way. That really describes the appeal of this classic movie. Watching this as a teen whose English teacher pressed upon the class as the funniest movie of all time, I did not get it. Sure, there were slapstick moments, but those were few and far between. The humour lies in the wit of the script, the symbolism and sly digs at government, society, people, not many a 17 year old [self included] would know or care about. In the first 20 minutes so many jokes which now have me in stitches had gone over my head. 1. Orwell’s 1984 and the Ministry of Information 2. Icarus 3. the inefficiencies of bureaucracy and the list goes on.
In this post-911 world, however, I find it disturbing that things have not much changed that Brazil was so incisive as to be so ahead of its time. Who was it that said, the more things change, the less things change? The war on terror had made terrorists of the armed forces in the UK and the States, with legalized (and illegal) brutality; reports of raids on supposed Al-Qaeda suspects prove eeriely similar to the ‘police’ busting down on poor Mr. Buttle. I am opening myself for flak, I suppose. However, just because I disagree with the methods does not make me an enemy of the state (aware, also, that just like the Al-Qaeda does not represent Muslims, these incidents do not necessarily represent the totality of the work that the armed forces does).
Thankfully, in the ten years since, saying this would not incite (hopefully) accusations of terrorist sympathizing. That, would be truly Orwellian.
Humour makes the truth more palatable, I think, and Brazil had made an impact by sucessfully doling out both, disguising misdeeds in dry wit. No amount of candour or reportage can make the same point across so wonderfully.
Does that mean the world would change? Nah. But at least, for some two hours plus, an alternative voice is heard without being seen as a threat (to national security) or an ‘insult’ to a way of life.