Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Brazil in Paradise


Terry Gilliam: What Brazil tells us about torture today.

By Clive James
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007,
at Slate.com


Unfortunately for our hopes of innate human goodness, all the evidence suggests that the torturers were keen to get on with the job even if it was meaningless. All the evidence was still there afterward, including photographs taken at every stage of the torment. Back in the late 1950s, on the sleeve of the Beyond the Fringe record album, Jonathan Miller made a dark joke about his worst fear: being tortured for information he did not possess. The assumption behind the joke was that if he had something to reveal, the agony would stop. He was looking back to a world of polite British fiction, not to a world of brute European fact. In the Nazi and Soviet cellars and camps, people were regularly tortured for information they did not possess: i.e., they were tortured just for the hell of it. Kafka guessed it would happen, as he guessed everything that would happen. In his Strafkolonie, the tormented prisoner has to work out for himself what crime he has committed and is finally told that it is being written on his body by the instrument of torture into which he has been inescapably locked. Kafka was there first, but he wasn't alone for long, and now we must all live in a modern world where the words "No no no no no no no no" can be recorded with perfect fidelity for their sound, yet go unheeded for what they mean.


The images and themes from this movie still resonate today.

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