Friday, December 23, 2011
Brazil and Oliver Heaviside
Brazil is a 1985 British science fiction fantasy/black comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam. It was written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard and stars Jonathan Pryce. The film also features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm. John Scalzi's Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies describes the film as a "dystopian satire".
The film centres on Sam Lowry, a man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living a life in a small apartment, set in a dystopian world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines. 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.
If you notice the mention of a "fly" you will realize the the connection to the "Spider" If you also notice the names of Buttle and Tuttle you would realize that they might be Butthole and Tuthole. At the very beginning of the film a "fly" is swatted and lands on a document
The connection to Brazil is, I think, related to the work that the physicist Oliver Heaviside did with equations related to electromagnetism, and the lines of force spider
Set in an unidentified country, the film follows Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a low-level government employee who has frequent daydreams of saving a beautiful maiden. One day he is assigned the task of trying to rectify an error caused by a fly getting jammed in a printer, which caused it to misprint a file, resulting in the incarceration and death during interrogation of Mr. Archibald "Harry" Buttle instead of the suspected terrorist, Archibald "Harry" Tuttle (Robert De Niro). When Sam visits Buttle's widow, he discovers Jill Layton (Kim Greist), the upstairs neighbour of the Buttles, is the same woman as in his dreams. Jill is trying to help Mrs. Buttle find out what happened to her husband, but has become sick of dealing with the bureaucracy. Unbeknownst to her, she is now considered a terrorist friend of Tuttle for attempting to report the mistake of Buttle's arrest in Tuttle's place to a bureaucracy that would not admit such an error. When Sam tries to approach her, she is very cautious and avoids giving Sam full details, worried the government will track her down. During this time, Sam comes in contact with the real Harry Tuttle (De Niro), a renegade air conditioning specialist who once worked for the government but left due to the amount of paperwork.
Undergirding Brazil 's ineffectual war on terrorism is a system that keeps its citizens docile through a combination of Kafka-esque bureaucratic bumbling and a police presence of inhuman efficiency. When citizens act up (or become the victims of hapless bureaucracy), they are removed to detention, where they are systematically tortured. They are, inevitably, never heard from again.