Bureaucracy In Terry Gilliam's Brazil

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) gives a dark yet comedic insight into a dystopian future in which society has faced a great increased in crime and wage inequality, and in which a strict bureaucracy (commonly referred to as ‘the ministry’) permeates all social institutions. The film follows a Bureaucrat, Sam Lowry, who is portrayed as vivid dreamer, yet is trapped in a cold and strictly organized society. Early in the film, an innocent man is taken from his home and charged as a terrorist due to a small technical error on his government files, showing the audience the extent of the ministry’s control over the private sphere. Upon being assigned by the ministry to investigate the error, Sam’s path becomes entangled with a woman (Jill,
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The ‘futuristic’ European state is portrayed as one with large looming towers, pervasive terrorist activity, and sarcastically large factories. Individuals move about the environment hurried and chaotically, giving the audience a sense that these structures work to dominate and organize individuals, rather than the other way around. This reflects Weber’s notion of the “Iron Cage of Reason”, which posits that in a highly bureaucratic society, rational behaviour is dictated by what the bureaucracy views as rational (Dandeker 1991). Brazil features comical manifestations of this idea in a particular scene when a ministry guards apprehend Sam after he attempts to use a restricted elevator. Following a brief pursuit, Sam accidently flashes his badge, signalling the guards to stand down, thus revealing a contradiction that illustrates how the bureaucracy works to serve itself. One gains an understanding of the dichotomous nature of the ministries classification of individuals as one notices it delicately balances between two undisputable extremes: citizen or …show more content…
One can understand this through Baudrillard’s ideas of simulations and simulacra (Bogard 1996). This idea assumes that societies that rely heavily on simulated information (rather than information gathered from real observation) for organizing people, implementing policy, and creating real change in society have a fluid and ‘imaginary’ nature (ibid). Brazil explores this idea through its call to action – the scene in which Mr. Buttle is wrongfully incarcerated as a terrorist due to his name being recorded as ‘Tuttle’ on his government file. This important plot point expresses the degree to which information controls individuals’ lives in the film. Despite the fact that Buttle has never committed a terrorist act, this small error in his intangible information leads to highly substantial results. This leads to an important tension between appearances versus reality, which becomes a major theme throughout the film. Another example of this is when Sam, his mother and her friends order simulated food at the futuristic restaurant. The food is served instantly and is comprised of gelatinous lumps of matter that are accompanied by a picture of the meal they represent. This shows how the characters are given two things: the pictures of fully cooked meals which represent the promise of what they believe they are eating, and the food lumps which are the ugly truth of what

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