Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brazil - Steampunk movie?

The Steampunk computer (see previous post) reminded me of the computers in Terry Gilliams 1985 film "Brazi"l. I saw the film it when it came out but that was a long time ago :-) Out of curiosity and nostalgia I rented it on DVD

The marvellous thing about Brazil is that even though it was made over 20 years ago much of the film doesn't seem dated, sure there is the odd dodgy haircut but generally the look of the film has faired well. Gilliam paid a lot of attention to set design and costumes and thankfully didn't set it in the 1980's, as the clothes and hairstyles veer towards 1920;s. The technology is a curious mixture of styles, the computers all use mechanical old fashioned typewriters keys and the display is made of small cathode ray tubes (like a tv but with no casing). These TV monitors are then magnified with what looks like a freshnal lens. The computers look like they might have been invented in the early 20th century, its as though in Gilliams world technoilogical advanced had happened earlier and someone had developed valve computers to the point where they would work as desktops. There is a literary genre devoted to technology-before-its-time and this is classed as Steampunk ( see here) .

The film its self is a rich multilayered satire in the moulded on 1984 but commenting on bureaucracy, plastic surgery, sex and with spooky prescience, terrorism. In Gilliams world people are taken from there homes by raiding parties of masked commandos for no apparent reason and then tortured by the state, with the cruel twist that victims are charged money for there own torture. Michael Palin brilliantly plays one of the interrogation squad, moving from torturer with blood stained apron to doting father in a few seconds. Every building in the film is littered with enormous concertina like ducting and this obviously takes some visual clues from Terry Gilliam's animation work from Monty Python.