Monday, September 8, 2014

Case Study No. 1559: Sam Lowry

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985) - Information Retrieval
Sam's first day at work. Surreal, Gilliam style. Great.
Tags: brazil terry gilliam information retrieval
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[scene opens with a birds-eye view of two massive doors swinging open, as Sam Lowry slowly walks into the giant room and up the stairs towards a bald man sitting at a desk]
SAM: Um, my name's Lowry ... Sam Lowry. I've been told to report to Mister Warrenn.
PORTER: Thirtieth floor, sir. You're expected.
[he looks around nervously]
SAM: Don't you wanna search me?
PORTER: [calmly] No, sir.
[he takes off his hat and reaches into his pocket]
SAM: Wanna see my ID?
PORTER: No need, sir.
SAM: But I could be anybody ...
PORTER: No you couldn't, sir. This is Information Retrieval.
[in the background, the elevator has reached the ground floor (which the porter somehow notices without ever taking his eyes off Sam)]
PORTER: The lift's arrived, sir.
[Sam walks away and enters the elevator, as the porter watches him go, then cut to Sam exiting the elevator and entering a darkened hallway with many doors on each side]
[cut to a closeup of Sam as he suddenly hears a large group of people yelling and running down the opposite end of the hallway]
[he walks forward, looking around to see where the source of the noise has vanished to, when Mister Warrenn (surrounded by a group of men talking quickly and waving papers in the air) approaches behind him]
MR. WARRENN: Half as terrorists, the rest as victims!
[Sam tries to keep up with the quickly moving group, as Mister Warrenn seems to be answering the unintelligible jumble of questions being thrown at him at random]
MR. WARRENN: Yes! No! Definitely no!
[he tries to extend his hand to Mister Warrenn]
SAM: My name's Lowry, Mister Warrenn ... Sam Lowry.
[Mister Warrenn quickly glances in his direction (without breaking stride), then continues looking forward]
MR. WARRENN: Ah, Lowry! Yes! No! Cancel that! Okay!
[the wave of humanity is now pushing Sam along with it, as Mister Warrenn casually loosens his tie before talking to him (without actually looking at him)]
MR. WARRENN: Glad to have you aboard! Yes! No, don't be ridiculous, Jenkins! Yes, yes, yes! You'll like it up here! Send that back! We've got a crack team of--
[someone shoves a folder in front of his face]
MR. WARRENN: Are they kidding? Decision makers! No, in triplicate! I'm expecting big things! Two copies to Finance!
[the crowd turns a corner, as Sam is still struggling to keep up]
MR. WARRENN: Don't let Progress see those! Between you and me, Lowry, this ... No no! Department ... Tell Records to get stuffed! Is about to be upgraded and--
[Mister Warrenn suddenly turns and stops]
MR. WARRENN: Ah, here we are!
[camera zooms on a door marked "DZ-015"]
MR. WARRENN: Your very own number, on your very own door! And behind that door, your very own office!
[he reaches back, and one of the subordinates hands him a badge]
MR. WARRENN: Congratulations ...
[he quickly looks down and reads the badge]
MR. WARRENN: "Dee Zed Stroke oh-one-five!"
[he places the badge on Sam's jacket lapel]
MR. WARRENN: Welcome to the team!
[he gives Sam a quick pat on the shoulder, then continues down the hall]
MR. WARRENN: [off camera] Yes! No! Cancel that! Send two copies to Finance!
[now alone, Sam looks around before opening the door and surveying his meager office space, consisting of a desk and a coat rack]



BRAZIL (1985).

"There are those who maintain that the Ministry of Information has become too large and unwieldy. But in a free society, information is the name of the game."

This Orwellian vision of the present/future (set somewhere in the 20th century, but using technology from the 1970s) tells the story of a lowly bureaucrat named Sam Lowry (played by Jonathan Pryce) who is the closest thing this society has to a librarian. He is a clean shaven, neatly dressed, middle-aged, unmarried, socially inept mamma's boy who toils at his daily task while entertaining a fantasy of rescuing a particular damsel in distress. He begrudgingly accepts a promotion from Information Storage to Information Retrieval and meets the girl of his dreams. One day he spots a mistake in one of the pieces of paper he handles, but trying to correct it leads only to further trouble until he ultimately is branded a terrorist and hunted by the state.

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