Terry Gilliam’s 1985 comedy Brazil may take place in a dystopian country “[s]omewhere in the 20th century,” but it fully develops that setting in its first five minutes.
In the opening scenes, the camera pulls back from a tube television playing a commercial for designer ductwork to reveal a whole storefront display of TVs. As the commercial gives way to a chat show interview with Eugene Helpmann (Peter Vaughan), a high-ranking official in the Gestapo-like Ministry of Information, a bomb explodes, destroying the display and incinerating a passing shopper. As a match cut transitions us from the one television that survived the carnage to a TV set playing inside the concrete office of a nervous executive, we watch Helpmann answer a question about recent terrorist attacks. In contrast to the destruction we just witnessed, Helpmann speaks in warm paternalistic tones, dismissing the terrorists as “poor sports” while promising to further violate civil liberties in pursuit of security. Helpmann brings this fascistic nightmare to a conclusion with a comforting smile to the audience, wishing viewers “a very Merry Christmas to you all.”