Filmsite Movie Review
Brazil (1985)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

At the conclusion of his work day in the Record Clerks' Pool while other clerks don their hats and leave, Sam searches for information on Jill Layton in his cubicle. Her computer portrait (a front and side-view image) appears on his screen as Kurtzmann, the last one to leave, passes his desk and is assured that the Buttle check has been delivered. But the word CLASSIFIED appears across Jill's computer image - an "IRQ/3" ("Third-Level Suspects" for an Information Retrieval Query) blocks Sam's receipt of information. It dawns on Sam that he can find information about Jill if he now accepts his mother's promotion efforts to allow security clearance and access into the Ministry of Information Retrieval. [Love inspires him to show some personal ambition, for once in his life, and allows him to move up within the system.] On the ride down the elevator (a transport cage lined with glass panels), a one-legged woman (using a crutch) is the only one left standing - an unforgettable image - as oblivious and uncaring businessmen with faces buried in their newspapers have taken all the seats around the perimeter. Daydreaming, Sam muses to himself about what he said to Kurtzmann, as he draws flowing hair onto Jill's cropped hair on his computer printout.

Sam's third dream sequence commences - his small winged shadow flies across the side of one of the giant monolithic pillars. As the wind whistles through the columns that block his view, he searches for his dream girl. [There are other obstacles in the real world that prevent Sam from attaining his dream girl - one being his lack of access to information about her.] Far below, he spots a procession of dark, hooded figures shuffling along, and struggling to pull ropes attached to a floating cage behind them. The figure, a likeness of Jill, is encased in the cage where she calls out for Sam. When he swoops down, lands in front of them, and extends his wings to save her, the decaying "Forces of Darkness" reveal their rotting, baby-doll faces after pulling back their hoods. He swipes his shiny, flashing sword at them to threaten them and get closer. His reverie is interrupted by the arrival of the transport cage at Level 41, a platform at the end of his apartment corridor. However, his preoccupation with his fantasies prevents him from exiting the door in time. He walks home from the next platform, along streets filled with other anonymous, similarly-dressed businessmen.

Upon entering his apartment, he discovers to his dismay that Central Services officials Spoor and Dowser (with the proper "27B/6" form) have returned for "emergency procedures" and removed many of the wall panels, spewing ducts and other pipes and tubing (looking like disembowled intestines) into his living space. Dowser reports that he has located the spare part that Tuttle had previously installed in the ductwork. Spoor accuses Sam of allowing Tuttle to commit sabotage: "You've had that scab Tuttle here, haven't ya?...Central Services - they don't take kindly to sabotage." To spite him, the two Central Services representatives leave Sam's apartment in disrepair.

A fourth dream sequence, arriving with less of an interlude since the last episode, begins. The sequence picks up where Sam's third dream ended with another greater and more menacing obstacle. As it stands before two neon-blue circles of light, a twelve-foot tall Samurai warrior, a shiny creature with metallic armor and blades shooting off his elaborate headpiece, towers above the cowering, hooded figures. [This is the first of two separate sequences with the Samurai warrior - a symbol of the autocratic government.] Sam charges forward and slices with his sword through one of the four stanchioned ropes holding the cage that imprisons his dream girl. Among a group of ragged, shackled prisoners that are nearby and chained to labryinth's dungeon walls is Mrs. Buttle with her children. She pleads: "What have you done with his body?" When he cuts the second rope, the Samurai warrior lets out a war yell, momentarily disappears, and then attacks from behind. The giant metal creature clips off the tip of one of Sam's wings with its battle-axe. Sam falls, loses his wings, and tumbles backwards.

The two warriors square off against each other with their sword-weapons in a dark passageway between the huge monolithic rectangles. When Sam hurls his sword at the Samurai's feet and accurately hits his target, the wound bleeds fire, not blood. A second assault brings more fire from the Samurai's punctured arm. The third and final attack drives a spear into the Samurai's chest - and the warrior collapses and topples back onto the ground, dead. Sam approaches and removes the Samurai's metal mask - and discovers to his shock his own face is under the face covering staring back at him. [Note: Ironically, he has become his own greatest enemy, due to his obedient complicity as a government functionary in the bureaucratic machinery after seeking a promotion. The scene paid homage to a similar one in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).]

His dream ends. In reality, he is fighting with the wiring and ductwork wrapped around him. Coming to his senses, he hears his doorbell ringing. A singing telegram girl (Diana Martin), dressed in a red bell-boy outfit, a plumed red hat, garters and net stockings, skips into his flat with a shrill and incomprehensible song-and-dance message (with extended trills):

Mrs. Ida Lowry requests the pleasure of your compan-yyyy
at her apartment tonigh-tttt
from eight-thirt-yyyy
to midnight
to celebrate the completion of her recent cosmetic surger-yyyy.

Sam is invited to his mother's facial celebration party by the cute messenger, but due to bureaucratic mix-ups, it is already an hour in progress. The "reply-paid" telegram requires an RSVP (but as the telegram girl reminds Sam as he responds with his own tune, she tells him: "You don't have to sing it").

The camera follows Sam's progress up the circular staircase of the rotunda in his mother's building. Outloud, he practices what he will say to his mother's guest of honor, Mr. Helpmann, the Deputy Under Minister of State for Public Information - he will ask for help to get into Information Retrieval (to retrieve information on Jill Layton - in his own fateful words: "I'm dying to get at this woman"). When he enters the apartment with his own key, he is attacked by security guards costumed as 18th century, wigged gentlemen. His red-haired mother, looking more youthful after the facial surgery with Dr. Jaffe, saves him, and then reminds her son: "You're the first person ever to refuse a promotion." Self-congratulatory Dr. Jaffe is ecstatic about the success and transformation of his patient:

Can you believe it? Just me and my little knife. Snip, snip, slice, slice...But this is just the beginning...You've seen her with her clothes off. Faces are a doddle compared to tits and ass. No hairlines.

A competing, exploitative plastic surgeon, dwarfish Dr. Chapman (Jack Purvis) with a monocle, disagrees with Jaffe's technique: "That technique...I've tried it. A nice effect, but highly unstable. In six months, she'll look like Grandma Moses." An unstable and bandage-faced party guest, Mrs. Terrain (one of Chapman's recent patients), now using a walker, shuffles up (as Chapman quickly exits) and confirms Jaffe's accusation - her face looks like she's been "mugged." [Her name isn't accidental. Terrain means 'land' or 'landscape' - in her case, her facial deterioration as the film progresses reflects the societal disfigurement.] Sam turns away - reflected in a large wall mirror, he momentarily sees the group of shackled prisoners from his recent dream with Mrs. Terrain in their midst. She describes her disastrous surgery: "There was a little com-pli-ca-tion. Dr. Chapman says it often happens with a delicate skin like mine. Nothing to worry about. He's promised me these bandages will be off in a jiffy." After a short, awkward encounter with both Mrs. Terrain's daughter Shirley, and Jack Lint and his wife Alison/Barbara (Elisabeth Spender), Sam meets the wheelchair-bound Mr. Helpmann.

After assisting the crippled Helpmann to use the bathroom toilet, Sam is given an opportunity to reconsider his promotion to Information Retrieval. Helpmann indeed 'helps' Sam by tracing a secret passcode (ERE I AM J.H.) an anagram, in facial powder that has been spilled on the marbled sink. Rearranged, the letters spell the name of Sam's late father, JEREMIAH - the secret passcode to Helpmann's floor on the elevator:

Your father and I were very close. Of course, Jeremiah was senior to me, but we were close friends, especially after the bombing. (He gestures that his legs were injured in the bombing.)... It's as though he's there still speaking to me - 'ere I am, J.H.' The ghost in the machine. I know he would have wanted me to help you. And I promised your mother that I'd take you onto the team at Information Retrieval.

Sam is congratulated and welcomed into Information Retrieval by a left-handed hand-clasp (in the mirror reflection): "Welcome to Information Retrieval," and the blowing away of the facial powder on the sink counter.

Photographed from a top view, Sam's tiny figure (with elongated shadow) enters the empty, cavernous lobby of Information Retrieval, where he speaks to the porter (Anthony Brown) at the reception desk. He is allowed to enter the building without a security search or ID check, to report to Mr. Warrenn on the 30th floor. After taking the elevator to the floor, he steps up into the silent corridor - the elevator is misaligned with the floor.

He hears a strange commotion emanating from the far end of the endless, office door-lined corridor. Then he sees the cause - a bustling group of cloned men, titled Expediters, scurry with choreographed movements, to follow their big-shot boss, Mr. Warrenn (Ian Richardson). Like automatons, they seek attention and approval for various orders, requisitions and invoices. [Note: Warrenn is an appropriate name - he moves around in a series of corridor mazes like a rabbit.] Lowry is led to his "very own office" with his "very own door," labeled DZ-015, welcomed to the team, and left there with a dumb-founded look on his face.

The office is a half-sized, tiny cubicle with a truncated desk jutting out of a side wall, and a small translucent window at ceiling height. A few pneumatic tubes and ducts are also visible. On his desk are an "in" basket and an "out" basket, a few heavy phone books, and a red-ribboned silver gift box from Mr. Helpmann (the card wishes him "Merry Christmas & Welcome").

When the desk is jerked and pulled into the adjoining office from a neighboring deskmate, Sam seizes hold of the desk and struggles to regain his precious desk-space. The slapstick, tug-of-war scene with the desk and an unknown person on the other side of the wall is one of the film's most memorable moments. He visits the next-door office (DV-048) where he discovers another Expediter, named Harvey Lime (co-scriptwriter Charles McKeown), also struggling to grab hold of his desk on the other side of the partition. [Note: Posters in Lime's office: TRUST IN HASTE, REGRET AT LEISURE, and DON'T SUSPECT A FRIEND, REPORT HIM.] Lime is possessive of his chair, one of the only existing pieces of office furniture.

Sam asks for Lime to lend him his computer console for ten minutes. Lime refuses, but instead offers to do the research for him. Sam continues his obsessive goal to access Jill's classified records, by asking to find "information on a woman named Layton...I need an address or place of work." Lime leers at Sam, and asks: "This is your dream girl, is it?," and then after becoming nervous by Sam's presence, promises to deliver the information to Sam in his next-door office when he's finished, with the dubious promise: "I'm not going to elope with her."

Back in his office while he waits, Sam toys with the executive, decision-making gadget on his desk - a tiny, upside-down guillotine (a plumb bob is cranked to the top, and dropped to a sharp-edged blade at the bottom). When released, the plunger either drops to one side (NO) or the other (YES) of the divider to provide an answer.

A fifth daydream begins - Sam hears the dream girl calling out to him from the cage as she floats upward between giant monoliths, with its four restraining ropes dangling beneath. She calls out to a wingless Sam, who runs along the ground to grab one of the ropes. When he catches one of the ropes and is lifted up, two giant brick-and-mortar arms emerge from the cobblestone road and grab his ankles. As he struggles to release himself, the face of the creature - Mr. Kurtzmann's face - pleads: "Sam, don't go, please."

The fantasy interlude ends abruptly when he hears Lime knocking on their common office wall. Sam is given a computer print-out with Jill Layton's profile:

Lime: (bragging) Computers are my forte.
Sam: Let me see. (He grabs the page.) Gillian Layton. Coloring white. Hair blonde. Eyes blue. Height, five-foot, four. Distinguishing marks, scar on left...Is this all you got?
Lime: Best to take things slowly where some women are concerned.

Determined, Sam sits at the console and punches a few keys. He learns that there is ANOTHER obstacle in his search - that any inquiries about "Layton, truck driver" must be made to "Reference Officer 412/L, Room 5001." He takes the elevator even higher up to the 50th floor, and emerges into a sparkling white corridor. Next to a door marked 5001, a red light is glowing, and on the shiny white floor is a fresh splotch of blood that he smears with the sole of his shoe. [Note: This referenced a similar scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).] When the green light is activated, he enters and finds a smiling secretary-typist Myrtle (Myrtle Devenish) wearing headphones and transcribing the grotesque proceedings of a torture or execution:

What is that you are putting on my head?
AHHHH, Oh God...No, Don't ...
Uhh.Please... I...Stop!!
I Can't Stand....AIIEEEE

Behind a door with frosted glass panels, Officer 412/L - Jack Lint - has just completed his gruesome daily work as an interrogator. Wearing a white (and blood-stained) technician's coat and with his back to the camera, he holds a vibrating temple/scalp massager to the sides of his head and utters shudders. A full baby-face mask is hanging on a partition behind him. Sam is delighted but also startled to see his old friend. Jack's four year-old daughter Holly (Holly Gilliam, the director's daughter), one of the triplets (the others are named Amy and Chloe), is playing with a ball in the room. [Poster: WHO CAN YOU TRUST?] Sam is eager to retrieve information about the woman, but Jack reminds him, "This is Information Retrieval, not Information Dispersal."

Jack is further worried that Jill Layton was involved as a witness to the embarrassing Buttle incident. Subsequently, she is also suspected of being a subversive aligned with free-lance terrorist Tuttle. And Jack is also concerned that Sam believes that the government made a grievous error ("I only know you got the wrong man"). Jack defends his own horrific actions in following government orders to torture Buttle (with electrical charges) and kill him - the wrong man:

Jack: Information Transit got the wrong man. I got the right man. The 'wrong man' was delivered to me as the 'right man.' I accepted him on good faith as the 'right man.' Was I wrong?
Sam: You killed Buttle?
Jack: Sam, there are very rigid parameters laid down to prevent such things happening. It wasn't my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file...(as he plays with his daughter) We're going to have to bring Mr. Tuttle in, aren't we? And interrogate him at the same voltage as Mr. Buttle - and juggle the books in electrical banking.
Sam: What has Tuttle done?
Jack: We suspect him of, uh, free lance subversion....Then all I need to wrap up the case is the Layton woman.
Sam: What has she done?
Jack: Oh, she witnessed the Tuttle, uhm, the Buttle arrest and essentially is going around making wild allegations, obviously trying to exploit the situation. She's working for someone and I don't think it's us.
Sam: (softly to himself) A terrorist?

After volunteering to "get" Jill and "deactivate her," Sam is given Jill's file by a reluctant Lint. [Note: Who is the real enemy - is it his friend Jack, or dream girl Jill? P.S. Jack and Jill are the two main characters in a well-known nursery song.] To further his mission, Jack offers Sam a better-looking gray suit (ironically, the alternative suit resembles the one he is wearing). The young girl intones to the astonished Sam: "Put it on, Big Boy. I won't look at your willy."

In the corridor, Sam notices a strait-jacketed and chained prisoner being led by two guards down the corridor behind him. The prisoner breaks away and races to the end of the hallway, where he blindly careens back and forth against the wall and elevator door like a pinball stuck in a game machine. Immersed in the dossier record on Jill, Sam passes the floor of his office, and then the elevator malfunctions. As he reaches the Lobby Mezzanine above the ground floor, he happens to see Jill at the front desk of Information Retrieval gesturing to the porter and complaining: "I've been to the Department...Why don't you stamp it now?" Frantically, he reverses the direction of the elevator twice, and finally ends up passing the ground floor and reaching the basement level. There, technicians place a "LIFT OUT OF ORDER" sign on the elevator door.

When he can't locate another elevator to return to Jill in the lobby, he spots a side elevator - but it has letters rather than familiar numbers on its control panel. When a uniformed security guard calls out, "That's the Deputy Minister's lift" and threatens to file a report when Sam cannot produce an ID from his now-switched suit, Sam takes flight. An alarm sounds, and he is pursued by a contingent of armed guards - and Jill is also accosted as a suspect on the floor above. Sam climbs a flight of stairs to the lobby, calls out "STOP!" when he sees the guards closing in on Jill, and then is thankful to realize that the guards have responded to his lapel badge and snapped to dutiful attention. Quick-thinking, he orders: "I'll take charge of her now...It's a classified matter," and leads the distrustful Jill safely out of the massive stone building.

Outside, the many papers in Jill's dossier slip out of the file folder and begin littering the street. An old lady (Ann Way) with a bulldog (with tape marking an X over his behind) calls "STOP!", not because of his flight, but because he is breaking the No Litter law (Sign: KEEP YOUR CITY TIDY). As Sam struggles to pick up blowing papers, Jill disappears around the corner to take the wheel of her large truck. Sam jumps onto the truck's running board as it passes. With much effort, he climbs into the passenger seat in the cab, but she abruptly brakes the truck directly in front of Information Retrieval and orders him out ("Get out of my cab"). Uncomprehending and beginning to panic, he screams: "What? Just drive!" She scolds him for inappropriately touching her: "Nobody touches me!" He cannot believe that she has driven back to the building and has parked out front, where two guards warily watch them.

In his first actual rebellious act against the system, he attempts to warn Jill that she is a wanted suspect: "Drive. Trust me. You are in terrible danger. You are an embarrassment. Please, please drive, trust me, trust me. Drive and I'll explain everything." For a second time, she calmly tells him for a second time: "Please, get out of my cab." As a show to the guards that he is in control of the situation, Sam raises his voice and pretends to be arresting her with an invisible gun: ("Drive on, or I'll blast your f--king head off! Go!"). Finally, she drives off - as sentry guards approach from the front of the building.

Sam apologizes for touching her, and then politely introduces himself as "Sam Lowry." And then, he confesses his love for her that he is having -- in his dreams:

You won't believe this, I know it's going to sound incredible, but I've been dreaming about you. No, not like that. I mean, I love you - in my dreams - I love you. And, uh...Extraordinary, isn't it?...(she laughs) You don't believe me, do you? You, you probably think I'm-I'm bonkers, right? Mad, raving.

Playing along with him, she admits that he is "very attractive...oh yeah, yeah, good-looking, sexy, just my type." He semi-believes her: "I don't believe you....Well, I just don't deserve such terrific luck." But then, as she responds: "Damn right," she abruptly kicks him out of her right-side cab door with both feet.

Miraculously, Sam holds on, climbs behind the cab, and knocks on the cab's rear window. He holds on for dear life as she deliberately tries to dislodge him. Sam continues to crawl his way around the hurtling cab (similar to the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)) - he holds onto the driver's door and puts up a scrawled note for her to read: "TRUST ME." He then lies atop the cab where he hangs down over the dirty windshield and writes with his finger: "I LOVE YOU." She slams on the brakes - sending him forward to the road ahead. Fearing the worst, she stops the truck and gets out. Again he survives by holding onto the truck's front grillework. Clinging for his life, he whimpers: "You don't trust me, do you?"

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