Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"8 1/2": Inspiration for Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"

While I may have not seen the entirety of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, upon reading the chapter on it in Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique, the first thought that popped into my head was, "I think I've seen this before." Terry Gilliam's 1985 cult classic Brazil is remarkably alike from both a stylistic and thematic standpoint.

According to its imdb.com storyline synopsis, Brazil is about the following:
Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and inefficient. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from technology and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. While trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Harry Buttle, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has fingered him responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, and both Sam and Jill's lives are put in danger.
While this may not sound so much like Fellini's classic, the main point of each movie is ultimately the same: a man is entangled within his dreams. Both films make use of vivid and often extensive dream sequences from the mind of the main character to illustrate his deeper desires. Guido, the star of 8 1/2, and Sam both have visions "of a beautiful girl in white [that] hold out an illusory promise of salvation and release from his mental stagnation" (Closely Watched Films, 155). The first dream sequences even bear a striking resemblance:

8 1/2 (sequence starts around 2:10)

Brazil (sequence starts around 8:59)

None of this is particularly surprising, though. Gilliam has consistently cited Fellini as a tremendous source of inspiration for all of his work. The actual working title, before Brazil became "Brazil," was "1984 1/2," a reference to both Fellini and George Orwell.

This all brings me back to our class's past discussions on how Fellini's film has impacted modern movie making. His influence is clear in the case of Gilliam, but if you take a look at IMDb's movie connections for 8 1/2, the extensive and diverse list of famous films (including The Godfather, Eraserhead, All That Jazz, and Pulp Fiction) further proves its powerful place in film history.


A short of Terry Gilliam talking about Fellini's 8 1/2:

To read more, try these links:

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