Rhetoric of Machine Aesthetics

By Barry Brummett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Simulations and Machine Aesthetics in Brazil

The 1985 film Brazil ( Gilliam) is a remarkable work. Set "somewhere in the twentieth century," it creates an Orwellian society of crushing fascism. Big business and big government have merged. Nearly everyone works for one monolithic agency or another. This society worships bureaucracy and hence is drowning in paper, proper procedures, policy, and office work. The world has been paved over and built up; urban sprawl consumes everything. Conversation, entertainment, indeed all of everyday life is swallowed up in trivia, parties, plastic surgery, obsessive television watching, and paper-pushing. Terrorist bombings break into this dystopia from time to time, and the threat of these attacks anchors the society's ideology: individual rights are gone, police tactics reign supreme, in a state wholly given over to combatting "terrorists." The film follows Sam Lowry, petty bureaucrat, over the course of a few days as he goes from office drone to wanted criminal to torture victim.

The film begins with a fly dropping into the works of a machine that is typing out names of the latest citizens to be rounded up by the Department of Information Retrieval. Information Retrieval is located within the Ministry of Information, the dominant controlling force of this society. The agency specializes in capturing and torturing thou-

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