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Sam Lowry doesn’t have a problem until she shows up.
And that’s usually what happens.
See, this girl has showed up in his dreams where he’s a winged Ziggy Stardust attempting to save her from cages in the sky.
Trust me, it makes sense.
In real life, however, he’s stuck in a society of bureaucracy that is stuck in a war on terror–which, as it turns out, became more apropos twenty years later.
He works for the Ministry of Records, a small-time part of the entire operation that just takes care of people’s information.
But then things go south once he finds out that the woman in his dreams is real. And part of a current clusterfuck he’s fighting through.
There’s a lot more–like Robert De Niro as a rogue HVAC mechanic–but part of the fun is discovering all the little intricacies of the story.
This is a film that stands up against all the other medias that warn of dystopias–1984, Brave New World, Children of Men, Infinite Jest, Fahrenheit 451, the Fountainhead (if you’re batshit)–because it builds a world from the ground up.
And the world is built around fear bred from the government that may or may not be causing all the terrorism that allows them to clamp their hand down against any sort of social freedom.
This is the government that leads Sam Lowry into his dreams which make up some of the more interesting scenes of the film: obelisks arising from pastoral hills, nymphs in cages, and a giant fucking samurai to name a few. The most interesting thing, watching this film 25 years later, is how interesting the physical effects (as well as clunkier-in-a-good-way) are in the way that the lighting is completely different from that of CGI.
There was this interesting Pixar feature on the Finding Nemo DVD where they talk about how they could make something so realistic, but there’s this weird parabola to interest and connection with viewers. If something enters complete realism, like, say any of the MoCap films Robert Zemeckis has done, there becomes a sort of emotional detachment because it looks too real. So Pixar pulls back and allows everything to look a little goofy.
With physical effects, since they’re not animated, you don’t have to worry about this as much because you aren’t creating things out of bits of data, but bits of clay.
It’s kind of the same with digital vs. analog projection. Analog projection is light illuminating an image, thereby feeling easier to the eyes. Digital is trillions of bits of information composed of squares onto the screen to create the illusion of a picture.
Anyway. I’m digressing. The effects in this movie are really kickass. From the random explosions to everything done in the dream sequences. And I like that this was done before visual effects because Gilliam seems to be still wrapping his head around CGI (see: Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Though that may’ve just been because of budget).
This is an affecting film that spirals out of control and gets ever more weird as the universe expands.
And then there’s the ending…
[Get the Criterion 3-disc ultimate fucking edition. The film is complete, the special features are awesome, and the third disc is devoted to a 90-minute version of the film that puts in all the cuts that Universal wanted to make. It’s worth how ever much you find it for (I found it for $30 on ebay as opposed to $65 at Borders. Never buy DVDs at Borders. They rip you the fuck off)]
It’s said that every great filmmaker, at one time or another in their career, will make a war movie. Coppola made Apocalypse Now, Stone made Platoon, Kubrick made Full Metal Jacket, Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan. Hell, even Robert Zemeckis got in on the fun when he made Forrest Gump.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’m pretty sure this is Terry Gilliam’s “war movie.” (Or at least one of them. I haven’t enough of Gilliam’s films) It has the battle scenes that the movie opens with, dragon cannons and all, as well as some typical Gilliam insanity. We have Robin Williams as the King of the Universe who detaches his head from his body for more intellectual matters; Eric Idle as Berthold who runs really fast but forgot how while imprisoned on the moon; Uma Thurman as the goddess Venus; and then some random actors as a guy who is really strong, a guy who can see really far and a guy who can blow wind really well and hear really well.
But at the heart of the story is a little girl’s desire to save the city and the Baron’s desire to die. See, the Baron is an old-ass motherfucker by the time the movie begins, and so he just wants out of the world’s bullshit. He’s tired of having no one believe him. And the little girl just wants all the fighting to stop.
This movie is kind a crazy, beautiful, mess. In typical Gilliam fashion, everything is done on an epic scale. But it doesn’t always seem to work out. Throughout the movie, we encounter enormous set pieces, but they all seem too overblown and too insane.
But then that is Baron von Munchhausen. A crazy mess. The way everything is filmed is exactly as Munchausen stated it as he tells the tale because he’s fed up with the bullshit play that’s being put on in some random town that the turks are attacking. The vision outweighed ability, it seemed. I don’t know if it could’ve been done better now since everything looks just as fake but it moves smoother and is a little shinier, but it just feels like this film has no center. I wanted to stay in the first story of him robbing the sultan but I was thrust back into the age of Enlightenment in the town of Oren (seriously, this town is exactly how I envisioned Oren when I read Camus’ the Plague) where we go to the moon and back again.
This movie is definitely family friendly, but it’s also definitely a gauntlet–challenging to get through if only because of what Gilliam has put on the screen for you to comprehend.