Objective Review: I think that the key scene from this film was at the beginning when the Information Retrieval squad burst (literally) into Archibald Buttle’s apartment to arrest him. After they have “subdued” him one of the officers gives his wife paperwork to sign which she does almost mechanically. She doesn’t question what she’s signing or why and keeps the copies as though it was such an ordinary thing to do that even in the shock of her husband’s arrest and the storming of her home she doesn’t think twice about it. This sets up the basis for what almost becomes a joke throughout the rest of the film: paperwork. Everything in the society of the film has paperwork associated with to the point of it being beyond excessive and the people in the film appear to be so used to paperwork that they don’t think twice about it or how superfluous it may be.
Reaction: My reaction to the film was a bit varied. In many ways it seemed almost like a parody of classic dystopian future novels such as 1984. Their technology was in some ways advanced (they had robots of unclear functionality) but much of their technology was basic or inferior to what existed even at the time the film was released. The entire plot of the movie began with a minor typewrite malfunction due to a fly. The technology also seemed to be poorly designed with problems seeming to be rather commonplace. The story itself wasn’t bad although it got very strange near the end. The end itself was rather appropriate for a dystopian future story though; they rarely seem to end well for the protagonist.
Interpretation: My interpretation of the film focuses on the idea behind biopower/biopolitics, specifically in regards to paperwork. The idea behind biopower is having control over others in some way that is different from the traditional sovereign style of power that was focused on control through fear. Biopower instead is control often based on an emphasis on promoting life, such as protecting or improving the controlled lives. There many ways that this can be done through both moral and immoral means although the two concepts are dependent if one uses the lens of moral relativism as opposed to moral absolutism. In what some would call it’s most ugly and extreme form biopower can be accomplished through eugenics or genocide. Destroying all Arabic states in the middle east to destroy terrorism is an example of real world biopower. It is however such an extreme and (many would say) wrong thing to do. Early in the Birth of Biopolitics class reading it discusses the way Foucault defined government and discusses the governing of self and the governing of others. Biopolitics is the governing of others in a way that over time they don’t even question what it is that’s controlling them, instead accepting as a basic part of life that is barely given any thought. In the case of the movie Brazil this biopolitical control method is done through paperwork.
The early scene in brazil of Mrs. Buttle mindlessly signing paperwork despite clearly being shock is only the first example in the film of how much of an everyday thing superfluous paperwork is. There’s paperwork in every aspect of their society and people do it without a second thought. When Jill is trying to free Mr. Buttle after his wrongful arrest there is so much paperwork and procedure she has to go through that he dies in custody long before she’s even close to helping him. Sam even takes advantage of the overabundance of paperwork to keep the two repairmen out of his apartment when Tuttle is in there and they leave without argument for not having the “required” forms. Tuttle himself became a vigilante air conditioner repairman (because who hasn’t wanted to do that before…) because he was sick of all the mindless paperwork he had to fill out simply to fix someones heater. All the people in the film appear perfectly content with their dystopian society and the way that this was accomplished by the government was through the use of biopower through paperwork. Which is probably the most horrible of any dystopian society I’ve ever heard of.