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Safran, S.B. (1988). Brazil: A Cinematic Incest Fantasy. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(3):473-479.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(3):473-479


Brazil: A Cinematic Incest Fantasy

Stephen B. Safran

Brazil is a farcical film (directed by Terry Gilliam, 1985) about an efficient bureaucrat, Sam Lowry, who becomes the hero in his search and rescue mission for Jill Layton, who has defied the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Information in an attempt to locate and save an innocent victim of their persecution. The entire scenario resembles an Orwellian vision of “1984” where the goal is to dispose of dissenters against the fascistic order. The conversion of Sam from bureaucrat to hero takes place as he recognizes Jill as the girl of his dreams. In this fantasy within a fantasy, he sees himself dressed in a suit of armor with wings, flying through the sky, attempting to join his ethereal heroine (identical to Jill, but with long blond hair, white nightgown, and wings). The music of Brazil 1 is the theme song played throughout the film.

In order to understand the latent incest motif and the disguised primal scene fantasy2 that represents its origin, I will give a summary of the film's plot with commentary and then an interpretation.


Against a background of terrorist bombings in a chiaroscuro urban setting, there is the centrally located Ministry of Information, headquarters for a Big Brother society. Mr. Helpman is the Deputy Minister, who was a colleague of Sam's father, once a senior official in this regime.3


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