Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Another Way of Being Between Circles

According to some interviews with Terry Gilliam, the ending to Time Bandits (in particular, the sudden, random death of Kevin's parents) is part of a motif of self-sufficiency and coming-of-age, tying into a broader theme of loss of faith in/necessity for heroes. One of the things that stuck in my mind from the commentary in Terry Gilliam's Brazil is his dissatisfaction with one of the (many) cuts made for the American version - a scene showing workers taking a moment off to play a game of volleyball - the scene is important because it prevents the state and those under/part of it from being dehumanised - the cut fits into the general idea of reducing the film to a naïve, black-white world. I didn't really see either of these elements on my own - the first only makes sense after reading Gilliam talk about it, and the second was underlined by the well-publicised struggle Gilliam had with Scheinberg over the American release. I don't think Gilliam's message between the films is ambiguity - the society of the film Brazil and the motivation/perspectives of Kevin in Time Bandits are visible enough that instead we're pushed to deeper interpretations that make dehumanisation (which is tempting and encouraged in many films, and preyed upon in real life) feel broken. Time Bandits is more inward-looking - Kevin's journey is personal, while Brazil is considerably more about social gravity. I sometimes have wondered - placed in Gilliam's Brazil, how might we start society down the road to reform? I suspect the question (and perhaps answer, if there is any) would not be that different from the problem of reforming American society (or most societies, really) -- the fact that we're theoretically a democracy doesn't mean very much when people are selfish, ignorant, and lacking in vision. I remember in the musical 1776 (not by Gilliam), one of the delegates wondered whether their job was more to serve the interests of the people or represent their will. In theory, with a well-educated people there would be no difference between what the people at large would decide and what their delegates theoretically do reach.. maybe? Does argument through those representatives represent argument that would theoretically represent the same arguments that might happen on a larger scale in society if society cared about things as specifically as what the state manages? In reality, in most societies both fall short of that on both fronts, the people through ignorance and lack of care in thought, the politicians through corruption and willingness to sacrifice the interests of the people to sufficient extent for their personal interests.

As things are now, I think we must cleanly separate the choices/voices of the people and their interests. The Will of the People should be understood as an ideal joining of these two, but we don't have that right now. To serve the interests of the people, I would hope that people in power would push people away from stupid rhetoric like "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" and agressively adapt society to provide basic food, shelter, healthcare, and quality education before thinking too heavily about "liberty" (which we understand as "autonomy"). Democracy or not and whatever the larger-scale economic system, these things should be understood as the basis of any civilised society, and to make their acquisition onerous/ruinous/impossible for parts of society is something we should not tolerate. The ability to vote on leaders, by comparison, is something we should consider far less important. If a commitment to the welfare of the people on all these issues came to the United States, and the ends were achieved, such a thing would be far more worth celebration than the Fourth of July.


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